“that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” (John 17:21-23)
Jesus plunges ahead in prayer to the deep place of God’s relational unity: “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” This is one of the great and mysterious truths of the Christian life. God is one in the unity of His substance, yet at the same time distinguished as three persons. There is a unified community of being within God that Jesus expresses here in prayer. Jesus points to God’s essential unity within diversity and diversity within unity. It is this unity within God that is the basis for the unity within God’s people seen in Jesus’ prayer.
Many times when we talk about unity, we begin to talk a lot about love. We know that love is critical to upholding unity within the church and is the essence of what it means to live the Christian life. Love is incredibly important, and we all must learn to love others more deeply and truly.
But Jesus takes His prayer for unity in a different direction. Jesus does not pray here that God would give His people greater capacity or ability to love one another. He prays about something else entirely. He prays that His glory would flow into His future followers and lead them into transformed relationship with God and, therefore, with one another. What is God’s glory? It is the fullness of God’s goodness and greatness being revealed. When Jesus’ prays for God’s glory to fill God’s people it is a prayer that the goodness and greatness of God would be manifested within the lives of His people.
Biblical scholar Raymond Brown points out that “unity is not simply human fellowship or the harmonious interaction of Christians.” There is “both a horizontal and a vertical dimension” to unity. What Jesus knew, and we need to recognize, is that our breakthroughs to unity with others depend upon the glory of God descending into our lives and relationships. The more we are transformed in our relationship with God by His indwelling presence, the more our relationships with others will be likewise transformed. The result is a glorious unity with one source in the Living God.
As we seek unity, let us pray for God’s glory – His goodness and greatness – to become even more present, yes, even preeminent, in us.
Lord, please pour out Your glory in us
that our lives might be overcome by who You are.
And as Your glory becomes more and more prominent in us
may Your beautiful unity also take root within us.
What we really want is to be more like You,
individually and corporately as Your people.
We know there is no other way for that to happen
than for You to have Your way in us.
Come, Holy Father,
Come, Jesus the Son,
Come, Holy Spirit,
Live in us!