“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us that the world may believe that You sent Me,” John 17:20-21. These were the words of the Savior the night before He was sacrificed for the sins of humanity. Above all the pain and agony He was about to experience was His concern for us. This petition was one of the last things He ever talked to the Father about before His crucifixion and death. The question is, do we live up to this final plea for UNITY?
Unity seems to be a strange thing to witness these days. The world and culture we have to live in daily often show us just how disunited everyone is. A simple glance at the mainstream media, social media, and a host of other platforms exposes the divisive nature we seem to have as a people. If you do not support ________, then you are ________. This seems to happen on either side of the issues plaguing our society. How should Christians respond to such blatant division? Sadly, I am afraid many have responded by conforming to the world’s example in this matter.
Christians are supposed to be the salt and light to this world, and a city set upon a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:13-16). Although it is impossible to be removed from the world’s influence entirely, it has been aptly said that Christians are to be IN the world but not OF the world. This idea can be found in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” We are called to be the transformative beacons of light, love, and unity to this decaying world in which we live.
The Apostle Paul was burdened with bringing the Gentile nation to the fold of God and had to deal with prejudice, racism, and division from the Jewish Christians first-hand. This is what he had to say about unity: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” 1 Corinthians 1:10. He even had to confront the Church’s pillars like Peter and Barnabas in Galatians 2 for showing favoritism.
Division is not a new problem. The Church of the first century was plagued by it as well. God handed a perfect institution (the Church) to an imperfect people (mankind), and we were the ones that messed it all up. God hates division. He hated division so much that He gave us His Son. His Son, who redeems all nations (Luke 24:47), unites all nations (Galatians 3:26-29), and desires all nations (1 Timothy 2:4). There is NO EXCUSE for the Church to be anything but a place of unity and a place where all can come and be ONE just as Christ is with the Father. Jesus knew the perfect antidote for our imperfections when He plead for us to be ONE, united together in perfect harmony.
The greatest apologetic, or defense for the Church, is our unity. That is why Jesus said, “…that the world may believe that You sent Me.” The problem comes when congregations do not hold fast to Christ’s desire for oneness. The community, the membership, and the world are more than able to discern a loving church from a divisive one. That is why Jesus would also say, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” John 13:35.
The world should be able to visibly witness our strangeness as Christians. The unity that we exhibit as a part of the Body of Christ will reveal something about us. Either we will prove that Christ is in us, or we will prove that He is not. We cannot be united on SOME things and divided on others. As Paul said, we must speak the same thing and be of the same mind, and the same judgment and perfectly joined together. If we are not actively practicing these things, then we are not His Church. If we do not advocate oneness, then we are not His Church. If we do not strive to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3), then we are not His Church. May we all pursue unity so that the world may believe in Jesus Christ!
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all,” Ephesians 4:4-6.
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism