By Francis Chan
A lot of truths are expressed in John chapter 17 that are impossible to believe apart from a miracle. Ask yourself if you really believe this is possible:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 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.
It seems outrageous that a church so divided could become perfectly one, but nothing is more outrageous than the cross. Remember, we believe in a God who sent His Son to die on a cross to draw us near to Him. Why is it hard to believe that He would find a way to draw us all together? This was His prayer. This isn’t one of those things we want, hoping that it aligns with His will. We worship a God who gets what He wants. He wanted us, and He made a way to get us. He wants our unity to impact the world, so I believe He will find a way to bring us together.
Do you understand how significant this is? It’s not a matter of getting along with a sibling you can’t stand because your mom said to. This is a matter of the world believing in Jesus! The stakes are that high. And this is Jesus’ plan for showing the world who He truly is! If I tell you to find some superficial form of unity so that we look less embarrassing as Christians, you might be excused for lacking sufficient motivation. But now that you can clearly see in Jesus’ prayer that deep unity among His followers is Jesus’ plan for bringing the world to see Him, I hope that your motivation is through the roof!
Perhaps it will help if you stop thinking about crowds coming to Jesus. Put a face to it. Maybe it’s your dad, your sister, cousin, best friend, or coworker who isn’t interested in following Jesus. Imagine they encounter a church so united that they realize that Jesus is who He claimed to be. They don’t just hear someone preaching about the grace, mercy, and sacrifice of Christ, but they see believers model this love with each other. This opens their eyes. Now is the sacrifice worth it?
Nothing else we could attempt as a means for reaching the lost comes with this promised empowerment. We’re free to choose our own methods, but honestly, I’m embarrassed that I ever thought my strategies would be better than Jesus’.
Perhaps this sense of purpose is what has been missing in our failed attempts at unity. When Lisa and I are fighting side by side for the mission Jesus gave us, it keeps us from fighting with each other in our marriage. A common mission brings oneness.
Too often, we do the very thing Paul warned us not to do in 1 Corinthians 12:14–26. We look at another member of the Body of Christ and say, “I have no need of you.” That’s what our disunity amounts to. Obviously, our doctrinal convictions matter. I’m not trying to talk anyone out of their firm beliefs regarding the teaching of Scripture. But Paul’s point here aligns so closely with Jesus’ prayer in John 17. He’s saying that we need every member of the Body if we are going to function the way God designed us to. Disunity isn’t just ugly; it makes us dysfunctional. We cannot be the presence and force in this world that God intended if we’re actively jettisoning essential parts of our Body.
Instead, we need to keep our eyes on the mission and realize that we need each other if we’re going to pull this off. Above all, we need the empowerment of God’s Spirit, but that is exactly Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 12: the Spirit has empowered us by spreading His gifts among the whole church family!
Excerpt from chapter three Until Unity, © 2021 Francis Chan, published by David C Cook, all rights reserved, www.UntilUnityBook.com
Francis Chan has been a pastor for over thirty years. He is a New York Times–bestselling author of several books, including Crazy Love, Letters to the Church, and his most recent Until Unity (David C Cook, April 2021). He and his wife, Lisa, have been married nearly thirty years. Currently, Francis and his family split their time between ministry and church planting in Northern California and Asia.