At #MiamiOH University on April 8th 2014 students, and many groups will get together in public worship, prayer, and evangelism #SpringOutreach. But is it important that we come together in a spirit of John 17 unity. We must briefly look at what is John 17 unity, and what are the struggles with John 17 unity?
First of all we have to look at “why” Jesus prayed John 17? The answer is that we would be one with God and each other, AND (notice I placed this in capitals) that we would know LOVE: for God, towards believers, and towards the lost.
But before we get into what John 17 unity is, we must and the questions “why did Jesus pray this prayer?” Jesus prayed this because it was the heart of the Father. Remember Jesus only did, said, and prayed what His Father was doing (John 15:9).
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9)
Therefore, the heart of our Father is that we would be together. That is why every family takes time to “be together”. In the simplest term God the Father wants His children to be together in unity, but it is unity on His terms not our terms.
Not only does He want us to be together. He wants us to grow in LOVE. Jesus prayed in John 17:23, that the Love which God has for God (John 15:9; highest LOVE imaginable) would be in us. That was Jesus prayer, why? Because the Father wants us to have the highest love inside of us. The Father Loves us and wants us to grow in that love first with Him and then each other, which is the 1st and 2nd commandment; to love God with everything we have and then love people that same way. Jesus prayed John 17 unity so that we could grow in love.
Lastly, Jesus prayed John 17 for the sake of the lost; He prayed that we would grow together in–unity and love–so that the world would see “our LOVE” and then give their lives to Jesus (John 17:23).
“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)
Our love for God and each other is a witness that will bring the Lost to salvation. Why? because we all want to be apart of a group of people–community–that love and meet their needs. I always say healthy community revolves around Jesus, His word, the work of the Holy Spirit, and our service towards each other; a healthy community works so that the weakest one among them grown in the fullness of God’s call for their lives.
So why do we struggle to engage in John 17 Unity in America? First of all, my friends in persecuted Egypt, do John 17 unity, as a matter of daily survival. They come together in prayer and activism to help each other. Why? because their persecutors don’t ask them what denomination they are from. Instead, they ask them if they are a Christian, who believes in Jesus as the Way the Truth and the Life (they don’t ask it exactly like this but you get the point). In America, where we do not have persecution (we do but it is not usually violence and more in social, cultural, and political pressure) we usually don’t do John 17 unity because it is HARD—with a capital “H”.
I have never meet a person that did not want “unity” in the body of Christ. I have meet lots of folks that want unity, but mostly on their own terms. They view unity as a big event, with all the churches represented; or they may see unity as everyone believing and voting exactly like them. This can be part of unity but not the only thing.
John 17 unity is many things. First, that we must have a pure heart towards the “church” as a whole. We must guard our hearts against agreeing with negative thoughts against disunity and then work towards unity. Then we can can do little acts of service for those in churches around us. In order to do this we have to work hard to get past offense.
“Offense” the BIG obstacle of Unity
The biggest obstacle to John 17 unity is offense, but this is easily overcome (well sort of). I have offended lots of people, and lots of people have offended me. I don’t agree with lots of other believers, but we have to realize that “dis-unity” is not an option. Jesus prayed that we would be one so that we could get past the offenses that arise with everyday life. I don’t always agree with my wife but we work hard to talk through these things. In the body we must work together.
Paul taught in Ephesians 4 that we would work (we have to work hard) to keep the Unity of the Spirit. This means that we keep unity with each other so we can have unity with the Spirit. We are to be: one Spirit, one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father who is above all, through all, and in you all. We are called to work through offense, so that God is glorified, if kids can do it we can do it 🙂
So what can we do?
We can work towards unity by: speaking goodness and loving-kindness towards the church down the street, and praying for them, inviting other believers to our home (not just to grow our church); give money or time to another church just because they love Jesus; take a meal someone in need in another church.
Lastly read John 17 and spend time meditating on each verse. Why? because this is the heart of our FAther; Jesus prayed this; and these prayers will be answered. Each verse is from the Heart of the Father; Agree with what Jesus prayed—pray John 17—and become the hands and feet of Christ to united the church and show the World the LOVE of Christ.