“…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 17:23
“To a true child of God, the invisible bond that unites all believers to Christ is far more tender, and lasting, and precious; and, as we come to recognize that we are all dwelling in one sphere of life in Him, we learn to look on every believer as our brother, in a sense that is infinitely higher than all human relationships. This is the one and only way to bring disciples permanently together. All other plans for promoting the unity of the Church have failed.” A.T. Pierson
- Read John 17. Highlight or underline some of the repeated ideas in this prayer, and then write them down in your own journal. Example: Jesus
uses the word glory several times. Jesus prays that we would be “one.”
- Think and write about why He might repeat these things.
Every Thursday evening, I attend a service for young adults in Colorado Springs. During last Thursday’s service, worship felt more like labor for me. I struggled and strained to force out what should have flown effortlessly. For a few seconds, I stopped struggling to listen to the voices around me. Though my voice was weak, altogether, we were one mighty voice floating to the Father on His throne and the Son on His right side, whom I imagined weeping with happiness, saying to the Father, “Look, the children you have given me. They are unified, in glory and belief, for they know who I am. Their praises bring us glory on the earth.” This gathering is home for me. The people worshipping next to me, who carried my weakness that night, are my family, with God as our Father. We may not share the same last name, but we share His. We are a family similar to you, your husband, and children.
If you’ve never thought about your family as being representative of the family of believers and how we relate to God, think about the similarities now. You, your children, and your husband are one unit. People rarely think of you without also thinking of your children or husband. You are your individual self, but you’re also who they’ve made you—a mom, a wife. You all belong to each other. You share one name, and the world knows you by that name. This design is no accident. God designed our relationships to reflect the way He relates to us.
John 17 states Jesus’ hopes for His family, the Church, which are not far from those we have for our own families. We’re getting a glimpse into Jesus’ pure heart for us. This is a chapter we should tune into.
In the days before His death, in His last documented prayer, Jesus comes before the Father, pleading for unity, that believers would exemplify the interdependent relationship of the Godhead: “I pray…that all of them may be one” (John 17:21).
In this single prayer, Jesus prays “that they [the believers] may be one as we are one” three times (John 17:11b; 21; 22). He is asking that we would be bonded in the same way He and the Father are bonded. Just like in a family, the members of Christ’s Body function optimally when we rely on and complement each other, love each other, and understand each other’s minds and hearts.
He follows His pleas for unity with a “so that” clause: “So that the world may believe you have sent me” (John 17:21b), implying that the former would result in the latter. In other words, if we are unified, the world will know that we really do belong to Jesus, that He is who He says He is, and that His love is freely given to those who believe. How the world sees Jesus depends on how unified we are.
The Church on Earth can only aspire to the level of unity of the triune God. However, if we are surprised by Jesus’ emphasis on unity, then it’s time for us to realign our desires to those of Jesus, honoring His departing wishes for His blood-bought family.
Blessings and Love,
Questions to Ponder
- How can I care for other believers in the same way I care for my children and husband?
- What does my family show me about unity that I can apply to my relationships with people outside of my family?
Think about other women you are connected to, and how you can increase unity with them. You might ask someone what she needs prayer for and pray fiercely for that issue like it’s your own. The more you pray for this person, the more you will care for and understand her. Or, maybe you can think of a situation in which setting aside your pride would benefit that particular relationship. Sometimes, we have to choose to love and serve someone simply because he or she also belongs to Jesus.