Christ Jesus came into this world to die for relationships. He died that we might be reconciled to God, having a relationship with His Father and with one another. He died that His Church might be one even as He and the Father are one. In John 17:11, Christ prays for unity, the oneness of the church. He has to ask His Father for help because unity does not come naturally to sinners. Disunity does.
Unity is oneness. It is marked by being like-minded and like-hearted. It is being on the “same page” with one another. It involves setting aside personal rights and agendas for the greater good of the whole. More than uniformity, which is external sameness, or union, which is connection with others with or without unity, unity can exist even amidst diversity. The church is to be in union with Christ. She is to be connected to Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is the head, she is His body. The church is to be in unity with her head and with one another.
Is Jesus’ prayer that “they may be one as we are one” just wishful thinking on His part? Was that simply a noble desire of His? Is unity within the church reserved for heaven but impossible on earth? Is it theoretical and theologically correct but practically impossible? I think Jesus meant for Christians to be one not only in heaven but here on earth. I do not think that He was asking His Father for something He knew was impossible to fulfill. I think unity is possible in the church and I think it breaks Christ’s heart to see the fragmentation and petty divisiveness of His Bride. One of the major reasons for division and disunity has to be the worldliness of the church. That is what the Apostle Paul said was causing divisions in the Corinthian Church.
What are some of the distinguishing marks of worldliness? Division, factions, jealousy, and quarreling are four that Paul pointed to in writing to the Corinthians. Are those four marks seen today in the church? Yes. The church is not one because local churches are too often marked by jealousy of one another and more focused on being right than maintaining relationships.
How can we bring about change that will result in unity and what is the connection between unity and purity? My theory is that if we put the focus of the church on Christ and His purity, unity both within the local church and between churches will occur as a byproduct. There is a purity-unity connection. Consider 1 Jn. 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” When Christians walk in the light they are being Christ-like for He is the light. According to John, to walk in the light is to be purified from all sin by the blood of Jesus. Christians, then who walk in the light, are those who are walking in purity from sin. The Spirit of God has applied the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ to their sins. Once they are walking in purity they have fellowship [Grk. koinwnija] (koinonia) with others. Koinwnija (koinonia) means “to share or participate” and comes from the word “to have in common.” If walking in purity is a prerequisite for true fellowship between individuals, it is logical that it is equally a prerequisite for true fellowship between churches. Unity is the fruit of fellowship. When believers or churches begin to share what they have in common, fellowship occurs and in time unity blossoms. Finally, consider the unity of the Jerusalem Church in the book of Acts. In Acts 4:32 we read, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” Unity was the fruit of their fellowship. This passage leads into the purifying of the church as the Lord slays Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). When the church is walking in purity with its sins cleansed by the blood of Jesus, it has fellowship within the church and with other churches and that produces unity.
When churches begin focusing on Christ and on becoming the pure Bride of Christ, God will bless and honor their efforts. He wants the church to be holy as He is holy and when she starts to purify herself amazing things begin to happen. The culture of the church begins to be transformed. When the culture of a local congregation begins to change and become more holy and Christlike, that church becomes attractive to other churches. Like a moth to a porch light, other churches are attracted to purity. Barriers and defenses that once separated begin to drop as relationships are built and unity begins to occur.
Make us one, Lord Jesus, make us one, so the world will believe in You,