In John chapter 17 Jesus Christ famously prays, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 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" (17:20-23).
Jesus Christ desires that His church be united. The above passage, possibly more than any other in scripture, makes this clear. On the night before His crucifixion Jesus specifically prays for His church to be one. Considering the timing, we see that this is of utmost importance to our Lord.
Too often we act as if unity is optional. We tend to unite with other believers that we already agree with on whatever issues. We shy away from those who differ from us or are just plain different from us. We try to just not really think about them. This is not as it should be. Jesus offers no loopholes for the unity of his body.
In the above High Priestly Prayer, Jesus prays the following amazing things:
1. That we (His body) will be one as Jesus and the Father are one
2. That this unity will lead to the world believing that the Father sent Jesus to earth
3. The glory the Father gave to Christ, Christ has in turn given to us so that we will be perfectly one.
4. That the perfect unity will show the world God's love for us
In essence Jesus prays for two main things. First, our Lord asks for perfect unity of His body just as He and His Father are perfectly united. Second, Jesus prays that this unity will be a witness to the world of his truth.
If we ever wonder whether or not unity matters to God, all we have to do is read John 17. Jesus directly connects the unity of His church with the Great Commission. Another way to put it is that our oneness as a church impacts the way the lost view Jesus.
Unity is not an option. Too much is at stake. Therefore, we must put aside personal preferences, live lives of humility, and embrace the perfect unity that Jesus wants for His body.