July 14

434482057

by Marty Miranda

John 17:20-21 - ONE THING TO BE

Theme: Unity and being one in Christ

Jesus prays for unity, that the church would be “ONE”

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

- John 17:20-21

It’s hard to find a person who openly admits to being against unity. Not many people go around saying, “I am against unity, and think we should be divided!” Most of us think unity in general is a good idea, and should be pursued. This is why we rally around any celebrity, politician, or leader who promises to make a change toward unity. So if we can all agree that unity is a good thing, what stops us from pursuing unity in our own lives? Why do our differences continue to get the best of us and keep us divided against one another, despite our desire to be unified?

The answer to the question is because unity is hard. Unity is counter-intuitive. And there’s no shortage of differences to focus on that would keep us divided. True unity takes an active effort and pursuit to be achieved, and even more effort to be maintained once attained. But this kind unity doesn’t come from pure hard work and determination. It comes from God. In fact, the New Testament writer, Paul, put it this way: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). We need the Holy Spirit to enable us to have and experience this kind of unity. So how do we make every effort in the Spirit to be unified? Jesus gives us an answer in John 17.

Before Jesus death on the cross, he prays for his friends, his followers, and everyone who will come to know, love and follow him in the future. Where we pick it up verses 20-21, Jesus has already prayed for his friends, the disciples. And now, Jesus shifts the focus of his prayer to the future disciples who he has not met yet: the church today! That means this prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-21 is really a prayer from Jesus directly for you and me!

This prayer reveals what Jesus sees as the most essential thing for the church to live out in order to carry on the mission of Jesus in the world today. The most important thing Jesus wants us to live out is unity: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one.”

Our unity is how the world will come to believe in Jesus. But what does it mean to have unity?

1. Unity means we are different, but not divided

This verse is not a call for you and me to ignore our differences and deny what makes each of us special. This verse doesn’t mean we should try to be like everyone else. This verse is calling for unity in the midst of our diversity. We celebrate one another’s differences, bear with one another and work toward peace and understanding. We do this by focusing on what unites us: the love of God, and our relationship with Jesus.

2. Unity means we share faith in Jesus Christ.

We see this kind of unity displayed all throughout the New Testament between Jew and Gentiles. When the New Testament was written, there was tremendous Jew and Gentile tension. They had plenty of differences, but one thing that was able to unite them. In Ephesians 2:14, Paul wrote to both groups, saying,

“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.”

Because of our shared faith in Jesus we can be different without destroying one another. We can be different and walk in love, unity and peace.

3. Unity means showing visible love to one another

Can you really say you love someone if you don’t show them visible love? Or can I really say I love my wife, if I don’t show visible love through my actions? Can I say i love my neighbor if i never meet them, talk to them, or show them acts of kindness? Jesus said in John 13:34, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We are united and known by the world as Jesus disciples by our love for one another. And our love needs to be visibly expressed through our actions!

4. Unity is how we complete Jesus Mission

At the end of John 17, Jesus prays, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” When we live out this kind of unity, people will come to know, love and follow Jesus! The opposite could also sadly be true: if we live divided in selfishness, avoiding anyone who is different, and only loving people who are exactly like us, the world will never come to know, love and follow Jesus. That’s how much unity matters.

Here are some questions to consider today:

1. What kind of reputation do you think the church has in regards to unity? Why do you think that’s the case?

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2. How much unity do you have in your relationships at home, at work or at school?

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3. What is one way you can work toward unity with people in our church and community this week?

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4. How does our unity during this week’s serving opportunities allow the world to come to know Jesus?

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5. Pray that we would all experience the same unity that Jesus had with God this week: that we would be one as Jesus and the Father were one.

“In this new life one's nationality or race or education or social position is unimportant; such things mean nothing. Whether a person has Christ is what matters, and he is equally available to all.” Colossians 3:11 (LB)

We have all heard the phrase, “never judge a book by its cover.” The same should be true for people. Most of us make judgments and assumptions about others within the first 30 seconds of seeing them. We judge people by how they dress, how they look, the color of their skin, how they behave, how they talk, how they shake our hand. These biases and assumptions we make can stop us from ever seeing a person the way God wants us to see them. And we can’t have unity with others if we don’t see them the way God does.

So how do we begin to see people the way God does?

Your challenge today is to identify someone in your life who is different from you, and take one step to build a bridge toward them. Be willing to confront any prejudice or biases you’ve held or continue to hold that have kept you from engaging this person. Once you’ve done that, take a step to reach out to them. Make a phone call. Send a text. Ask them their story. Spend time in prayer for them. Build a bridge between them and you.