“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have love me” (John 17:22-23). This prayer reveals two very important realities about Jesus. First, it reveals the unique relationship of oneness that he shares with the Father, that is marked by a mutual, binding love. Secondly, that it is the deepest desire of his heart that all who come to him in faith would be one.
This passage comes in the middle of Jesus’ passionate prayer to the Father on behalf of the Apostles and disciples just before his arrest. Throughout the entire prayer we hear Jesus’ desire that those who believe in him, and those who will come to believe in him, through the preaching of the gospel, will be one in this faith. This is why he came among us; to defeat the divisiveness of sin, which divides us from God and from one another, and to conquer its ultimate consequence, death. This is the core of our faith, that we are to be one in the faith that Jesus Christ has given to us.
It is a matter of great sadness that the Body of Christ is so divided today. Jesus prays just before today’s verse: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (verses 15-16). Division is of the world. It is the the work of the evil one. It is the product of the ego, in the individual, and in groups. Humility is the glue of a healthy relationship among ourselves, and certainly with God. We cannot escape the fact that we are in the world, but we are not to be of it. “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). It is the desire of the evil one to have Christianity divided. It is, therefore, our duty as Christians to turn away from the false things that divide us, and to forgive the real things that divide us from one another. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to seek the ways that will unite us in the one body of Christ that Paul writes about in his great analogy of the body in 1 Corinthians 12.
How do we do this? How do we recover this unity in Christ that he so deeply desires for us after so many centuries of division in Christendom? How might such a unity in the Body of Christ change the world? Certainly, we must pray for and with one another and create the means to do so. We must root our journey back to oneness in the Body of Christ in the scriptures that have been given to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And there would be no better place to begin than with Paul’s great discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13. The Apostle John tells us: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). If God is love, then, when we love one another as he loved us, he is in us in that love. This is the force that binds the Holy Trinity together. This is the divine force that binds us to one another in this faith. Where there is no love, God is not present, and there can be no unity. Let us love one another then, and pray for the courage to engage in the long, difficult work of unity that God has called us to in Jesus Christ. Remembering, too, that he remains with us in his Spirit to encourage, guide, and inspire us in this holy effort.
Lord, We know only too well the effects of division in the Body of Christ. Melt our prides with your grace, Lord. Give us the courage to love one another enough to begin the difficult process toward unity in your name. In you alone do we live and move and have our being. Help us to see you in our brothers and sisters as we engage in this faith journey toward oneness in you. Bring us together in that “complete unity” you so earnestly prayed for us. We pray these things believing in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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