20 “I do not ask for these 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.”
John 17:20-26 ESV
We often say this prayer – “Lord, may others see You when they see me.” This a beautiful prayer showing our desire to glorify God in our personal life. Nevertheless, glorifying God is not meant to be done by one individual alone. As we have been reading John chapters 13 through 17 and unveiling the heart of Jesus, the message of “loving one another” had repeated many times. And today, in concluding His ultimate prayer to the Father before reaching His final destination on earth – the cross, He prayed for the unity of ALL believers in this world – a perfect unity as the Father is in Jesus, and Jesus in the Father.
Listen again to Jesus’s prayer for every believer –
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”John 17:21
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.John 17:23
Jesus opened His heart to us again through His prayer on the importance of unity. He prayed for our unity “so the world may believe you have sent me” (v21 and 23) “and loved them even as you loved me.” (v23).
Sometimes we may wonder why the church has to put in so much effort in maintaining our relationship with one other. Why not do more outreach and do more work in evangelism? Aren’t we called to preach the gospel to more people? I learned from the Lord’s prayer that when we love one another, it not only brings perfect harmony among God’s people, which satisfies our hearts and God’s. The unity of the church is also an essential instrument of evangelism. It would show the world that Jesus was truly sent from God the Father and that Jesus loves His people and loves them just as the way God, the Father, loves the Son. We proclaim Christ and His love by living in unity.
No wonder the Lord repeatedly reminded the disciples about His new commandment: to love one another. It is the foundation and the ongoing steps we need to take to make disciples of all nations. A church in perfect unity not only shows strength in numbers but also reveals to the world that perfect circle of love of God, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. After all, God invites and includes all who believe in coming into His perfect circle of love.
The Lord has prayed for our unity, and He continues to intercede for us on that. Therefore, may the Holy Spirit open our eyes and see the beauty and importance of unity, and help us to strive for that perfect unity in the love of Christ.