How seriously do we who are Christians take Jesus’ words recorded in John 17:23? This question brings another question to mind…how seriously do we take the two greatest commandments: Love The Lord your God with all you heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself? The answer to the later is the same as the first; not seriously enough. Without love for our neighbor, which is motivated by our love for God; the unity we claim will always remain invisible. Whenever our neighbor is demonized, objectified, and seen as just a right or wrong answer, unity will cease to exist, except by way of the indwelling Spirit. We’ve forsaken visible unity, and the humility we are called to walk in for arrogance, seasoned with a harsh, hasty, self-righteous tone. We’ve forgotten Paul’s words urging us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling. “ I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3; ESV)
Our lack of unity is evidenced by the degree in which we treat one another. We cast out at the smallest difference of opinion. Sexism, classism, and racism are still setting up camp in our churches. We’ve categorized to the point of isolation…we’ve forsaken the unity we share through Jesus Christ our brother, and the indwelling Spirit in order to maintain unity within ourselves (our homogeneous pods). Whatever keeps us, and our inner circle from pain and discomfort, while maintaining our right to be right is more times than not our first choice. If only we could see one another as created in the image of God? Ultimately not letting our differing convictions drive us directly to disdain for one another; forgetting that Jesus desires so much more for us. “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:23; ESV)
This kind of unity invites us into a deeper relationship with Christ, and with one another…a relationship like we’ve never known. This kind of unity demands to felt…it demands a loving response. One that would require us to die to ourselves in order to be unified with others. Jesus knew all to well the cost and rewards of unity. Right after Jesus prayed this beautiful prayer on our behalf in John 17:23 he was betrayed, and lead to his death. His Crucifixion and Resurrection would give us access to the unity previously prayed for. Will we take hold of it? Will we live in relationship with one another grounded in our love for the Father? Will we ultimately lay down our arrogance, moving through our convictions in to living life with one another in such a way that draws people in, instead of pushing them away? I hope so! May we live into, and out of the unity that is already ours.