In John 17, Jesus prays for himself, The Twelve Disciples, and The Church. All of these prayers have a common theme: UNITY. He prays for himself to be glorified so that God (the Father) is glorified. He often makes claim's of his oneness with the Father. Then, when he prays for The Twelve, he asks "...that they will be one as we are one" (John 17:11, CEB). Finally, in verses 20-23, Jesus prays for all believers everywhere to be in "complete unity." All of this Unity is for one purpose: so that the world will know that God sent Jesus Christ.
These verses come in a section of The Gospel of John when Jesus is bearing his heart to The Twelve. He is passing on to them what he considers very important. In fact, John 13:1, the preface to this section includes the phrase "he loved them to the end," which can also mean, "he showed them the full extent of his love" or as the CEB puts it "he loved them fully."
It's not often that one gets to listen in on an intimate conversation between a father and son. It's even less often that we get to listen in on the private prayers of a spiritual leader like Billy Graham, or Martin Luther King, Jr., among others. Those intimate moments are usually kept reserved for those closest to the person. In this case, it is The Twelve that are closest to Jesus. He holds them dearly in his heart, and prays for their Unity. Unity with God, and Unity with one another for the sake of showing God's love to the world.
There seems to be two things that are connected that Jesus wants deep down inside of his heart: 1) Unity of believers, so that 2) the world will believe. Jesus's heart, his mission and purpose that God sent him to do, is to Love every single human being ever. As The Church, we are called to the same mission and purpose to get people to be a part of God's family/kingdom. We can do this better together than divided. In fact, division probably hurts our mission more than anything else. Where is your heart, with Christ? Then we can work hand-in-hand. (My paraphrase of John Wesley.)
Treating others with Mercy & Grace, and offering forgiveness when necessary is the key to Unity. Showing the same kind of love to one another that God shows us in Jesus Christ is essential. One must let go of pride and submit to one another out of love. Look at the group of twelve that Jesus gathered. They weren't all the same! They had differences! It was Jesus that brought them together for a common goal and purpose. We too can gather together, rally around Jesus, and be about the same mission. Even if we have different opinions on public policy, or about the future of our church. If we seek Jesus together, and truly submit to him and one another out of love, then I know, by faith, that God will shine through us to accomplish God's mission.
Where is your heart? Is it aligned with Jesus' heart? Do you love like Jesus? Then let's work together.
I am a United Methodist Pastor, but I'm trying to re-define that as a Missionary sent to my corner of the USA. What would it look like for you to envision your life as a Christian more like a Missionary than a Church-goer?