The Way to Unity
Series: How to Become a Better Church
Lesson 4: The Way to Unity
We’ve been talking a lot about love, which is supposed to be our distinguishing feature as followers of Christ. Now let’s zero in on the idea of unity. Being one.
Our passage for this lesson is from the prayer Jesus prayed for himself, for his disciples, and for us, just before he went to his death on our behalf. It would be a good idea to read the entire prayer, but are going to focus on the part where Jesus prays for his followers in the future (us).
There are lots and lots of places in the Bible that emphasize unity in the church. Many of them are in Paul’s letters, where he talks about us as a building with its various parts, or a body with its parts working together. But I want us to focus on what Jesus wants out of us as a church.
John 17:20-26 (ESV)
20 “I do not ask for these [the disciples] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 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. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
- How does it feel to you to know that Jesus prayed for the church throughout history almost 2000 years ago, just before his death?
- What is the main thing that Jesus asked to Father to accomplish within the church?
- Is unity in the church as important to us as it was to Jesus? Why or why not? Do we live it out as he would have expected?
- Where does the unity of the church come from? Do we make it happen with our own efforts and wisdom?
- What does Jesus ask the Father to do because of our unity? Does it give you a sense of urgency to know that Jesus expected our unity to result in the world believing that the Father sent Jesus? Does the world believe that? Why not?
- We are to be one. Does that mean we are to be alike, to think alike, to always agree about everything? If it doesn’t mean that, what does it mean?
- What’s deal with glory? How can God’s glory be seen in the church? How often or how seldom do you come into contact with God’s glory in the church? How could we see more of God’s glory?
- What keeps us from unity? What keeps us from being effective as the church? What keeps us from reflecting God’s glory?
It doesn’t seem to be in question that Jesus expects some kind of unity in his church. (Remember, it is his church.) And no one can deny that the church in this world today is splintered. So many denominations, so many little groups divided our little things and big things. Even divisions in our own local church over minor practices and traditions. It should make us sad and concerned. Based on this prayer of Jesus, I think we can at least agree on one thing: it makes him sad.
We may not be able to do too much about the big picture. But there is no reason we cannot work on the little picture, within our own church body. Shame on us if we don't work on it.
- Find a small way to find some common ground between you and another Christian with whom you have some kind of disagreement?
- Read this prayer of Jesus every day until it begins to make sense and get under your skin.
- Do something. Do a little something to help the unity of our church. Don’t give up when your attempts are rebuffed. Keep at it. Apparently it is important enough to Jesus that we should give it a good effort.