John 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”
It has always been very meaningful to me that Jesus prayed for us today in the hours before He was crucified. After all, we certainly fit the category of those who have believed because of the apostles’ message. The thing is, just what He prayed for us is extremely important. The kind of unity He prays for here, which He touched on earlier in the Upper Room Discourse, (John 14:10, 17, 20; 15:5, 7) defies not only human psychology, it defies the laws of physics! We have our categories that we think are all distinct, but Jesus’ terminology here blends all of that. Apart from an act of God, human beings don’t have the kind of unity Jesus is talking about, but then He is God, and He’s talking to the Father, so all restrictions are off. This is certainly not something we can accomplish on our own, but we can submit ourselves to cooperate and participate in it. There are those who steadfastly resist unity! This sort of unity is in a way defined by the Greek word, agape (love). Verse 23 here echoes John 13:35. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We cannot have unity with the Father and the Son, much less with one another, apart from the love of God. It was no stretch for John to declare that “God is love,” (1 John 4:8) because both of the two “greatest commandments” deal with love, (Matthew 22:36-40) and then we have passages like this. We won’t do it perfectly while we are on this earth, but complete unity in God’s love is certainly something both to strive for and to look forward to.
The unity of the Body of Christ has been one of the foundation stones of my ministry. My convictions in this area are why I have chosen to be non-denominational, despite a strongly denominational background. They are why I have worked over the years to build up the Omura Ministerial Fellowship, with both Protestant and Catholic participation. They are why I regularly take part in interdenominational conferences. However, such “macro” activities don’t mean much if I deny the “micro” unity that is called for in this church. I am to seek the unity of the Spirit on every level, first with my Lord and then with His children. I am not to join with them in sin, certainly, but am to call them into the unity that God makes possible by His grace. I am to remember that any child of God is my brother or sister, even if we disagree or if one or the other of us is being a brat. I am not to fear discipline, but understand that is part of love and is necessary for genuine unity.
Father, this whole topic is huge, which shouldn’t be surprising. Help me grasp it more and more, so that everything Jesus prayed for here may be fulfilled indeed, in us and through us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!