Our unity as a church bears witness in the world
Text: John 17: 13-26
Text verse: John 17:21
This passage points out that unity is the visible sign of God’s presence. It is a visible unity that must be among believers (vv. 21-23, also see Eph. 4).
The sad reality is that the church still often struggles to live out this unity in both word and deed. We see it in quarrels amongst ourselves; in churches torn apart by people; in families that are torn apart and refuse to consider reconciliation.
The underlying reason for all this discord is the sins that Jesus addressed in the previous chapters. Sins like jealousy – you cannot handle others having something you don’t (John 3:22 ff). Pride – you think you know better and therefore you want everyone to do what you say (John 5:18 ff; John 7:45 ff). Selfishness – you only think of your own needs (John 13:18 ff).
What does this sin have in common?
The fact that the person committing the sin wants everything in life to revolve around him. He wants to be like God.
It is therefore important to see what Jesus is praying for us here. What Jesus asks gives us the strength to fight against sin in our lives so that our unity can become clearly visible.
1. One aim (vs. 21)
As believers, we must live in fellowship with God. This means that we must pursue His purpose in our lives. We must dedicate ourselves to Him and not each to his own needs and selfish desires.
There is only one Shepherd, Jesus, and the sheep must follow Him (John 10). There is only one vine to which all the shoots are attached (John 15). We must all receive our nourishment in Christ and therefore pursue His will.
In this regard, Jesus says that He sends us into the world, just as the Father sent Him (John 17:18). As believers, we have this common goal. This is one goal we must strive towards and it will enable us to function as a unit. So, we all follow Jesus in one direction.
2. One in Glory (22)
The glory referred to in verse 22 is a type of reward that Jesus received after his humiliation, suffering and death. A glory that He also gives us. We do not know exactly what this glory is, but the Bible gives us a vague idea. Paul describes it as the fact that Christ is in us: “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27)
Other passages of text that describe to us something about glory are: 1 Peter 4: 6 - We will live forever as God. Philippians 3:21 - We will have a glorified body. 1 John 3: 2 - We will be like Jesus. 2 Cor. 3:18 - the power of the Spirit increases the glory that radiates from us.
We now see only small parts of this glory, but the prospect of entering the full glory binds us as believers together.
3. One in love (23)
Although the Holy Spirit is not mentioned here, His work in this regard is inevitable. He works in us as believers and binds us together. Through Him we are also in Christ and in the Father.
So, we all share in this love of the Father. Love that becomes visible through the merits of Jesus Christ. He reveals to us the glory of this love that we receive in Christ and therefore this love also binds us together into an unbreakable unity.