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I’ve mentioned in this blog the interesting things I witnessed in church business meetings as a child.

I watched people who had been Christians longer than I’d been alive become red-faced, loud, angry, and spiteful over such important issues as:

  • Coffee in the worship center
  • The American flag inside the worship center
  • The amount paid to staff members (because they thought staff was overpaid)
  • Choir robes (because the music leader wanted the choir to stop wearing them)
  • Paintings on the wall

I wish I could say I’m making that up. 

Is this why Jesus died?

Jesus was praying at the table where the Last Supper had just occurred.  He started this prayer in John 17. This is not the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane but a different, intimate prayer the disciples would have heard. 

While we are breaking this up over weeks, the Lord Jesus prayed this in one sitting.  Last week, we saw how Jesus prayed for us when He prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message…” (John 17:20).

Jesus continues in John 17:21-23:

…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 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 loved me.  

John 17:21-23
New International Version

We hear the word “unity” all the time, but what does it mean?

When Jesus prays that we “may be one…” (verse 21), does this mean we are so much like each other that we are essentially stripped of every bit of personality and individually placed into us by our Creator?  Does this mean we don’t say anything if we have questions or even—gasp—disagreements?  Does it even mean we will never have questions or disagreements?

Jesus desires us to be “one…just as” the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father.  Jesus would often say, “I’m doing the works of my Father.”  And He told the disciples if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.  While the Father and Son are distinguishable from each other, they are still “one” with no hint of disagreement, frustration, or imbalance.

And Jesus prays we’re “one” like that. 

This “oneness” is designed to tell the world Jesus has changed us and wants to change them too!  We can never stray too far from this idea.  We’re not saved just to receive a “get out of hell card.”  We are redeemed to be a witness to the power of God in our lives.  Our unity, Jesus says, can make the profession of our faith to the WORLD that Jesus is Who He said He was and did what He said He did.

That means we’re not in a relationship with Jesus to engage in a monastic retreat into oneself while connecting with the divine.  Instead, we are ambassadors of Jesus for the Church to the world.

In verses 22 and 23, Jesus isn’t promising to make us gods.  We must also be sure that any “glory” we receive must be understood as derivative of the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Just like our salvation: this glory does not initiate with us but is granted by God.

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Again, the point of anything we have in this life is for us to give glory to God and bear witness to Him to others.

This produces unity and this gives glory to God.

When congregations are caught up in squabbling, fighting, arguing, back-biting, splitting, and just being plain old mean, we have settled for the spiritual equivalent of infancy when they should be adults in the faith. When I’m called in to counsel a church or a pastor struggling and fighting, it doesn’t take long to figure out who the spiritual children are and who the spiritual adults are.

We need a deeper level of unity, the “complete unity” Jesus prayed for.  This is for His glory and for the salvation of others. How can you build the unity of your congregation?