I once heard a story about a ship cruising in the South Pacific, when a member of the crew noticed a signal fire on an uncharted island. The captain and crew went to investigate and found a lone, shipwrecked survivor. Overjoyed at seeing his rescuers, he exclaimed, “I’ve prayed and prayed that someone would come! I’ve been stranded alone on this island for seven years!” Then the Captain noticed three huts in the man’s primitive camp. “What are these?” The shipwrecked man pointed to the largest hut. “I built this one to live in so I could be warm and dry.” The captain then asked, “What about the second one?” The man replied, “That’s my church, a special place to worship and pray.” “And what about the third one?” “Well, a couple of years ago there was an argument and the church split.” While you may think this story is funny, maybe even silly, real church splits aren’t. Have you ever been part of a church split? Today, let’s listen to one of Jesus’ prayers:
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! (John 17:20-24)
In today’s passage, Jesus prays that we would experience the same kind of “one-ness” that He experienced with His Father from before time began. Oneness is obviously good for us; but there’s another purpose. Jesus says that when the world sees how much we love each other, they “will know” that God sent Jesus and that God loves us. In fact, Jesus says this twice! When He says it twice, in verses 21 and 23, all of us who say we are following Christ should pay close attention. So how do we experience oneness in our relationships with other believers in the world, or even with people in our own congregations? By committing ourselves to the relationship—with Jesus' help. I have many friends with whom I strongly disagree theologically over some very significant details, but I can agree with them about who Jesus is. Through these enduring relationships, we continue to strengthen and support each other as we seek to fulfill Christ’s prayer in our lives.
If you find yourself in conflict with another believer today, look for ways to be together in Jesus. After all, Jesus is the reason you that have that relationship in the first place!