My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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: 20-23)
This may just be the most profound passage in the Bible on the subject of mission.
In case you missed the context, it is a short passage from Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before his crucifixion.
Jesus Prays for Unity: the first thing to note is that Jesus prays that his future disciples (that includes us, folks), would be united in the same way that the Father and Son are united. I don’t think that I need to point out that this is something that the Church isn’t terribly good at today. Sadly, there are a good number of Christians for whom it is a point of pride that they keep themselves away from others of differing view points. Even within evangelicalism, there are those who will not associate with people from differing backgrounds. We need to take this as seriously as Jesus does.
Our Unity is the Proof That Jesus Came: unity isn’t just some nice idea. It is the unity of the church; a worldwide fellowship of very different people united in the Spirit, that demonstrates that Jesus came to the earth. If we aren’t living out the message, then there is no reason that people will believe us. That’s why we have to take it seriously.
We Share In God’s Glory: despite all of the failings of the church, Christ has given us his glory, the glory that he received from the Father and we will be united to Christ, as he is united to the Father. I don’t know how this all works out, but in some way, we get to share in the greatness of the Triune God. It certainly doesn’t mean that we will become divine, but it does mean that we get to share in God’s life, even though we clearly don’t deserve it. When we call people to follow Jesus, this is the destiny that we are calling them to – to be united with the Church and united to Christ and the Father. It’s no small thing.
But unity is the key to it all – and that’s not something that we Evangelicals find very easy.