John 17:20-26: Love and Unity
December 12, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Jesus’ great prayer also encompasses those who will believe in him. Extraordinary thought: Jesus has in his prayers also those who are not-yet-Christians, but who will become Christians through the testimony, the message, the “word” that Christians deliver. It is easy perhaps to only pray for fellow Christians. Jesus here prays also for those who are not yet believers, but who will become believers. Is this our practice too? Do we have on our prayer list the neighbors, friends, family members, who are not yet Christians but who—according to God’s sovereign power—may one day become Christians?
Then Jesus prays several times in various ways that all his followers may be united. He asks that they be “one” just as the Father is in him, and he is in the Father. This is a high and exalted unity, and it is legitimate to wonder whether Jesus’ prayers here have been answered. Could it honestly be said that Christians have attainded this degree of unity? It all depends what you mean by being “one.” Jesus here defines the unity for which he is praying as real and also spiritual. It is the oneness that he has with the Father—an essential unity, a unity of spirit, a unity of nature and essence. There is no prayer here for denominational unity or organizational unity. There is a prayer for unity of heart and life and spirit.
It has certainly been my experience that that “oneness” is real. Wherever you go around the world, you meet fellow Christians. And despite all the cultural, denominational, and organizational differences, you know that you are one with these other Christians. You pray together and sense your unity. You work together for the cause of the gospel. You have the same Lord, the same Father, and walk in the same Spirit.
That said, we should not thereby excuse ourselves from practices that tend towards disunity. We should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit” because there is “one Lord, one faith, one hope” (Ephesians 4). The fact that we are one in Christ means that we are thereby called to act as united. To think well of each other. To avoid jealousy towards each other by the security that comes from knowing that we are loved just as we are by the Lord of all glory. To care for one another. With such love—what Francis Schaeffer called the “final apologetic”—we witness to the love of God within us, as we become more and more perfectly one.
Who is there that loves Jesus who is near to you with whom you are wrestling with disunity or disharmony? There are times when it is unwise—an abusive adult, for instance—to be vulnerable again. But in many instances, what keeps us apart is the lack of our deep realization of the love that we have in Christ, and therefore the security to offer such love to others. Think: the love with which the Father loved Christ is also “in” us!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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