The Importance of Unity
This past weekend I was able to preach from John 17. As I was studying through this passage one thing stood out to me that I have been thinking through all week, the importance of unity in the church. Unity seems like it would be one of the easier things to maintain in the Christian walk. However, it is often one of the most difficult things to practice. But unity is a big deal. Jesus reminds us of the importance of unity in John 17:20-23
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them glory that you gave me, 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. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Jesus is praying for unity because He knows that unity within the body is the ultimate evangelical tool to reach the world. We can see that in the progression of the text. In verse 20 Jesus says He is praying for those who believe in Him. But then we see a Greek word called a ἵνα (pronounced Hina). The word ἵνα can be translated as “So that” or “In order that”. What the word ἵνα also does is it indicates a result or purpose of what directly preceded it. It’s what Biblical Greek scholars like to call a ἵνα clauseSo in this passage we read that Jesus is praying for those who believe in him ἵνα (In Order that) all of them may be united, ἵνα (In Order That) the world may believe that the Father has sent Him.
Unity in the church is so important because without unity, the church blends in with the world around it. Without unity, the work of Christ is lessened in the eyes of the unbeliever. Disunity in the church discredits the work of Christ in the eyes of unbelievers. Unity can be tough to maintain. Especially when we still struggle with our sin this side of eternity. But I love what Jesus says in verse 22
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”
Jesus knew that we could not achieve unity by our own power. He knew that we needed help. Praise be to Jesus that he died on a cross so that we could receive the Holy Spirit in our hearts, who now helps us to maintain unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s because of the work of Christ that we can have unity with one other. And it’s with that unity on full display to the people around us, that we can proclaim the glory of Christ to our Oikos (those 8-15 people in our lives) So that (ἵνα) the world will know that Jesus is Lord