John 17, known as the High Priestly prayer, records the only time Jesus prays for us specifically. When He prays for us, He only prays for one thing. And it is so important that he repeats his request three times.
The one and only thing that Jesus prays for us in John 17 is that we would be “one”, that we would experience unity.
So, here is the question I want us to wrestle with today, “What does true “unity” look like practically? If Jesus’ prayer was answered, what would be the evidence?”
Breakthroughs to Unity
1. We honor others above ourselves
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10 (NIV)
One scholar translated this phrase “try to outdo one another in showing honor”.
I love that because it is the opposite of our normal competitive spirit. Our human nature competes to show we are the best. When we compete, it’s usually about “us”. But Paul says, “if you you want to compete, be competitive in showing honor."
That means we are not just devoted to the mission or the cause of Christ, but we are devoted to one another.
That means I put a “10” on everybody’s forehead, even that church member that drives me crazy.
That means I never meet anyone that Jesus didn’t die for.
That means recognizing every person I shake hands with as someone created in the image of God.
And that means every person I look in the eye is somebody that matters to God.
Where there is honor, there is greater unity.
2. We are generous
Let’s go back a couple of thousand years and look at an example from the early church.
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. Acts 4:32 (NLT)
There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. Acts 4:34-35 (NLT)
Did you notice how the Bible links unity and generosity? These early believers were “united in heart and mind” and then it says “they shared everything they owned."
It’s pretty obvious why generosity breeds unity. When someone meets a need in your life it creates a bond. I remember many years ago now when I was a poor, struggling seminary student. We had $13 in our checking account and we had a major car repair and had no idea how we were going to pay for it. And another couple who were a little bit older but also in seminary paid our car repair bill.
The body is never more beautiful and unified than when we are joyfully and lovingly meeting the needs of those who are part of this spiritual family.
So, if we want to breakthrough our selfishness and promote unity, we need to learn how to honor one another… we need to be generous.
3. Get clear about your purpose
Notice in Philippians 2 how Paul links unity to purpose.
Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Philippians 2:2 (NLT)
The church’s purpose is the great commission and the great commandment.
When I see my role as an end in itself, it will become nothing more than a JOB. But when I see my role as connected to the vision of my church and the fulfillment of the great commission, then my role becomes a calling and ministry.
There is a great old saying that says “In essentials “unity”… in non-essentials “liberty”… in everything “charity”.
4. Appreciate diversity
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:4-5 (NLT)
UNITY DOESN”T EQUAL UNIFORMITY. Unity doesn’t mean we all look alike, dress alike, talk alike, think alike. It doesn’t mean that we never disagree.
I think about this in my marriage. Connie and I are as different as any two people I know. When we were dating, I used to think of our differences were cute. But it wasn’t long until our differences became annoying!!
I’m a morning person, she’s a night owl.
She is very musical and has a great voice. My singing is so bad that I can single handedly quench the spirit in a worship service.
She is very tech savvy, I’m technologically challenged.
I like flat pillows, she likes big fluffy pillows.
I tend to be naïve and she is very discerning.
I’m very calculated in what I say, and she has never had a private thought in her life.
I never leave anything in the car and she thinks the car is a second closet.
Yet, God calls us to be “ONE” and part of the beauty of our marriage is our diversity. And part of the BEAUTY of the body of Christ is our diversity. So, instead of letting the diversity annoy you, learn to celebrate it.