“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father … that they may be one as we are one.” John 17:20-22
Jesus did not give this as a command, but as Prayer revealing his desire for us which is still clear as of love, peace and unity—he wants all believers to be united. And frankly, Christianity has earned a dismal score on this matter. I am embarrassed by all the fragmentation found in the Christian world. Since Luther, there have been hundreds of church splits, more than a thousand different denominations, and thousands more independent churches, some of whom can’t get along with anyone.
There are untold numbers of leaders who think that they alone have the truth, the secret now revealed to some specially chosen servant of God. Too often, they write other Christians off as deceived, as false brethren, as apostates. The annals of church history have too many anathemas, far too many condemnations.
When people fight over trivial details, they give Jesus a bad reputation. How can he be the Prince of peace when his followers can’t even get along with each other as against Hebrew 12:14?
Notice the reason that Jesus gives for wanting us to get along: “That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (verse 21). Our example reflects on Jesus’ reputation, and that is all the more reason that it saddens me to see how poorly we Christians have done over the years.
Jesus wants all his followers to “be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them” (verse 23). Jesus wants our unity to be rooted in God’s love, not in perfect agreement. There will always be disagreements, but our identity as Jesus’ disciples lies in our love for one another. Shalom!