Written by Marcus Mitchell
Scripture to Read: John 17:20-26
In this passage, Jesus turns His attention to all the believers of the future. That is, all believers of the past nearly 2,000 years, including you and me at this present moment of time–dealing with all the issues of our time. Right now, it seems we are in the middle of the biggest events of our times, but we need to remember we are not special. There have been big events that people have had to deal with throughout all of human history. And each of these events gives us a choice, an opportunity for us as Christians to either come together or be divided. People tend to choose their sides of issues and place a stake in the ground that says, “this is where I stand and I’m not moving.” We may even have legitimate Biblical defense for our positions. The problem comes when we see all others through the lens of these issues; we place folks in categories of us and them. As a result we have division. Sadly, this division weakens the church, its message and mission.
What Jesus is praying for in this passage is more basic than unity between ourselves. He is praying that we find unity within Him. It is a matter of reference point. If we seek unity by using ourselves as the reference point, there is no telling where we might end up. I think this is what we are seeing so much of today among different denominations. Christians are seeking out other Christians that place themselves in the same political or ideological categories. Sometimes, when we see someone stray out of these categories, the communication, dialogue and fellowship start to break down. When we think of seeking unity only in terms of unity with each other and not first and foremost within Christ, it’s easy for us to get off track spiritually and theologically.
However, when we are seeking unity by having Christ as our reference point, we will be seeing other Christians as our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will see them as people that Jesus laid down His life for, people whom He loves deeper than we can fathom and people for which He has a plan and purpose for within His kingdom.
During these last moments with His disciples Jesus continues to come back to this theme of abiding within Him. If we are truly finding our identity with Christ and abiding in Him, then we will find ourselves in unity with each other.
It’s humbling to think of Jesus having us on His mind during His final moments on earth. But He knew the purpose of why He came. He came to save us. But He also knew that it didn’t stop there. Once we are saved it is just the beginning of a new journey of growth, of surrendering ourselves to His purposes. And the work He has for us as the church requires our finding unity within Him. Verse 21 says, “I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.”