Like the issue of love, we are not talking about unity the way the world puts forth unity (subjective, tainted, and even unity for unity sake). As Christians we do not make unity an idol (it is not ultimately what we serve); and we do not seek unity at all costs (at the expense of Truth, for example). Instead, we unite around what is objective, observable, deep, and eternal. We unite around Spirit and Truth.
Read John 17:20-21.
In this text, Jesus astonishingly says, in short, that our unity as believers leads to a consequence. We are united as brothers and sisters “so that (ἵνα) the world may believe that you have sent me.” That is, so that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son, we are united. We are united in faith, in purpose, and in mission. We are of the same mind, united in this way “so that” the world may believe that the Father really sent the Son (to accomplish His redemptive purpose). This is amazing!
Now let us understand what this means in the negative. Jesus is saying that disunity, then, is a testimony to the world we put forth that He did not actually come. This is incredible. We can claim to love God. We can claim that Christ came to redeem us. But if we live, speak, and act in a way of disunity or disharmony, our testimony is false.
Disunity and disharmony among the people of God means the world will have full justification to say: “Nuh uh; those things are not true. You do not love this ‘God’ and this ‘God’ certainly did not accomplish what you claim He did!”
That is huge.
Why it matters:
Not only is our testimony about the truth claims of what we are and what the Father accomplished on the line in our practice of love and unity; but consider our witness to the unbeliever.
Unbelievers; or, those who do not have a peaceful relationship with their Creator; that I have ministered to in the field have certain things in common. Most have very drama-filled lives. It’s all they know. It consumes them. Whether it is in their relationships with family, friends, work-related, etc.; there is little love and there is a heavy dose of disharmony, disunity, hatred, and confusion. And what I hear most often after building up trust in relationship with them is something I had not expected when moving to our location. They desire peace. It is not rare for someone to say to us, “You look like you have peace. Joy. Rest. And… I want that.”
Many people’s lives are consumed with everything but peace, joy, and rest.We are called to be a different community as the Bride of Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have got to be different. If we look like what the unbeliever is so used to (lack of love, disunity, etc.) it is not hard to imagine them finally saying, “Why would I want to be a part of that? I have that here in my life already. You talk about love, peace, and unity; but you don’t live it. Therefore, I can’t believe what you claim about yourself, or what this 'God' did.”
While a struggle, many people who are separated from God are looking for a community where they may experience love, unity, joy, and peace. I firmly believe this is one of those “divine markers” placed inside each human; one of those things the writer of Ecclesiastes says when he speaks of God putting "eternity in man's heart," (Ecc 3:11).
And I believe this is what John and Jesus are getting at. Everything is for the glory of God in the accomplishment of Christ. Both John and Jesus are saying that if we fail to love and fail to live in unity, we are telling the world “God has done nothing. Go on your merry way.”
It is amazing what the Word of God puts on the line regarding the Christian practice of love and unity: Our very testimony of who we are and what God has accomplished in Christ. Let us, then, be drenched with this love and faithful unity from one another; and may it overflow toward one another; that the world will know that our testimony about ourselves and Christ is true.