I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.John 17:23
Note the strategy by which God intends to accomplish his objective of reaching the world:
that they may be brought to complete unity. There are those who tell us that this prayer of Jesus concerning the church must now begin to be answered, that it is now time to answer this prayer after twenty-one centuries of it remaining unfulfilled, that we must now forget all the differences and distinctions that have separated us into various denominations and sectarian groups through the centuries and join in one great organization or union. But let us first raise the question,
Is this prayer really unanswered today? Can it be possible for twenty-one centuries to roll by before God the Father begins to fulfill this last request of Jesus?
No, this prayer has been answered ever since the Day of Pentecost. This strategy is not of human making. This business of making all Christians one does not depend upon us, it depends upon the Spirit of God. Paul's great chapter on the Holy Spirit in First Corinthians clearly establishes the fact that in the Spirit's coming he accomplished what Jesus prayed for. This is the divine strategy by which the world may be led to believe in him. All Christians are one, not in union, but in unity. Union is an outward agreement, an alliance, formed by the submerging of differences for sake of merging. But this artificial union, this joining together in an organization, is this the answer to Jesus' prayer here? The test, of course, is,
Does it accomplish what Jesus says will be accomplished when the church is one? Does it cause unbelievers to believe that Jesus is the authentic voice of God? There is little evidence that this is the case. My observation is that when churches or denominations join together (though there may be good in much of this), it creates a vast, monolithic power structure which causes men and women of the world to fear the church as a threat to their own power structures, as a rival force in world politics and world affairs.
Unity, as indicated here, is the sharing of a life. Look at Verse 23 again:
I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. That is quite different, is it not? The divine strategy by which the Lord intends to bring the world to an awareness of Jesus Christ is to create in the midst of the world a family, a family life, a shared life, so that men and women all over the earth, becoming by new birth members of that life, enter into a family circle which is so unmistakable and so filled with joy and warmth that unbelievers observing it will envy it and, like homeless orphans with their noses pressed up against the window, will long to join the warmth and the fellowship of the family circle. The remarkable thing is that when the church is like this there is no more potent evangelistic thrust.
Father, you are the God of love. When I look at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ I see that love poured out for me. Lord, this is the nature and character of the love that is shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit. Teach your people to love one another.
As members of God's own redeemed family, mutual partakers of his life and his love, does our family witness honor this distinctive heritage? Do they know we are Christ's ones by our united witness to His redeeming love and amazing grace?