Today’s passage: John 17:20–26
Focus verse: “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” (John 17:23)
Jesus’s last prayer has three sections. First, he prays for his mission, its successful completion, and giving God glory. Next, he moves on to pray for his disciples, that they will persevere, and that God will protect them.
Last, he wraps up by praying for his future followers—everyone who will one day believe in him. This third part of his prayer applies to us today.
Jesus prays that we will be one, just as he and his Father are one (John 17:22). Since they exist in perfect harmony with each other, he wants the same agreement from all who follow him.
We have fallen short of this, far short.
As we congregate with other like-minded believers, we associate with those like us. In doing so, we push aside those who may hold a differing perspective, even though we all follow Jesus, albeit in diverse ways.
The result is we spend our time with people who think, believe, and act as we do. We esteem our own thoughts, beliefs, and actions as best aligned with God. The logical extension is that we assume other viewpoints are wrong—or at least not as good. This creates division.
But division is not what Jesus wants.
He prays for his followers’ unity, that we would be one just like he and Papa. Our disunity works against Jesus’s prayer for us to get along and act as one. Getting along is a great goal, but why is it so important that we, as Jesus’s followers, live in harmony?
It’s to maximize the effectiveness of our witness to a watching world. Our unity will best allow others to see Jesus in how we live our lives. That means our disunity works against our witness.
If we can’t get along with one another, does someone on the outside looking in have any motivation to join us?
Our world has plenty of discord. Shouldn’t Jesus’s church be a sanctuary from that? Instead, we disagree and fight as much as the world does, sometimes even more.
Our divisions, denominations, and doctrines send an irrefutable message to the world that the church of Jesus is a splintered, sparring group, unable to get along and unworthy of respect.
Despite our inadequate witness, some people still decide to follow Jesus. How much more effective could our testimony be if everyone got along with one another and functioned as one, just as Jesus prayed we would?
- Do you believe that Jesus’s prayer in today’s passage is for you? Why?
- How much time do you spend with people who don’t think, believe, or act like you?
- How can you promote unity among Jesus’s followers?
- What can you do to expand your understanding of Jesus’s church beyond the local branch you attend?
- Does Jesus’s prayer for unity apply only to his church or to all religions? Why?
Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.