That They May Be One
Jesus’ Prayer for Unity
"That they may be one." These words were spoken by Jesus Christ the night before He died, as He prayed for us to His Heavenly Father (see John 17). Five times He expressed His desire for our unity – not only a unity of the original apostles – but also of all who have followed in their footsteps, generation by generation. Please notice the significant repetition of the phrase that they may be one in Jesus' prayer.
"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are." (John 17:11)
"That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me." (John 17:21)
"And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one." (John 17:22)
Our response to this deep desire for unity expressed by Jesus should be to do everything humanly possible to bring about the unity and oneness of the Church of God. It has always been God's Will that His Church, His children, be unified – made one by His Spirit. As God's children, we should be laying down our lives to help bring about unification in attitude, direction, and fellowship of the brethren; especially as we find ourselves separated by the imaginary walls of worldly administrations.
"If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." (Philippians 2:1-2)
Our individual responsibility in working to bring about Godly unity is a matter of personal salvation. We will not attain to eternal life unless we develop a Christ-like love for all of the saints (1 John 3:4). The basis of unity and oneness is a genuine care and deep concern for the complete well-being of all the brethren. This kind of unity requires nothing less than putting our very lives on the line for the sake of one another. Oneness demands the right application of Godly principles when interacting with our brethren. In short, oneness requires Christian love. Jesus Christ has given us His doctrines, the seventh of which is to go on to perfection, which includes unity of the brethren.
"I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me." (John 17:23)
We cannot see or touch God in our zeal to serve Him, to love Him – but God has given us our fellow man to love in His place. When Jesus walked this earth, those He loved were all unconverted – not yet saints. His love had no bounds; likewise, our Christian love should have no bounds. The love we give must reach abroad; not only to true Christians, but also to those we know in the world – and, yes, even to those who make themselves our enemies. "If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well." (James 2:8)
Perhaps it seems improbable that God's children will come together again in one specific fellowship, and yet it is imperative that the saints of God achieve a unity and oneness that transcends organizational lines. God's Church is not a place! It is a people, yielded to God, who exhibit unity and love for all. God commands all of His children to be one with all whom He calls, because we are to be one in His Spirit. "He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 6:17)
The diverse world of "the Christian religion" is mystified at these last words of Christ because, if anything, they are definitely not one in unity – nor can they be. The difference is that, through God’s Spirit, we can be, and we must find that oneness Jesus says we must have.