Do you enjoy working on jigsaw puzzles? They can be a lot of fun. The pieces of the puzzle are in many different sizes, shapes, colors. If you look at one piece of the puzzle, you don’t get very much of the picture, do you? No, the pieces are not very important by themselves, but when they are all joined together and become one, they show the total picture.
A jigsaw puzzle can teach us an important lesson about the church. The church is made up of many individual members. Like the pieces of a puzzle, the members of a church come in different sizes, shapes, and colors. Jesus himself prayed that the church would be one so that the world would see God’s love in us. We are part of the picture. Jesus wants us to love one another, help one another, and serve one another. When we do that, we become one, just as Jesus prayed we would be, and when we are one, the world can see God’s love in us.
Unfortunately, just as it is sometimes difficult to put all of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together, the individual members of the church sometimes have a hard time being one with each other. We may hear people in the church saying things like “I don’t like the songs we sing” or “The preacher preaches too long.” When we say things like that and concentrate on our own likes and dislikes, we are no longer being one. We are like the individual pieces of the puzzle. The world cannot see God’s love in us. They don’t get the whole picture.
If you ever find yourself thinking about yourself, rather than being united with others in the church, remember that Jesus prayed that we would be one. When we are one, bound together by Christ’s love, the world will see God’s love through us.
When Jesus left heaven and came to earth as a human baby, He united Himself to us in our humanity by taking on human flesh. He went on to live a perfect life, obeying God in all things. He died a sacrificial death. He took the punishment we deserved. Through our faith in Christ and what He did for us in His life, death and resurrection, we are united to Him. This means that His perfect life is now ours. God looks at us and sees Christ’s righteousness. The death he died is ours. God accepts Christ’ s payment as though we paid it ourselves.
Our unity with Christ creates and shapes our unity with other believers. We are united to Christ through our justification and united to one another through our adoption. Though we come to faith as an individual, once we are a believer, we become part of the family of God.
Jesus wants his cross to be given to all people-the cross that contains his promise to include all people in his resurrection. As Jesus and the Father are one, never judging each other, never excluding the other, but working together to bring life to the world, so Jesus prays that all people be given his life, eternal life, a life of mercy and forgiveness.
When Jesus prayed for those who will believe in Him, He was praying for every believer who would come to know Him into the future. Jesus prays that all of His people throughout all time will be one. He wants unity to be rooted in Himself and God-the unity that Jesus and God have in each other. This unity can be revealed in all of us. As Christ’s love is perfected in us, the world is challenged. The church will become God’s call to the world. Everyone will eventually know that Jesus was sent by God to be our witness. God’s love will distinguish us as His disciples. He is in us. It is His love that will enable us to fulfill Jesus’ command to love one another.
Jesus wants us to be united with Him in glory. We will be united with Him in God’s love because we have been united with Him on earth. Christians who operate on the same agenda as Jesus understand these things as His heartbeat: He longs that the Father be glorified, that His followers would be sanctified, and that the church would be unified to reach the world for Him.
The world is a battleground. There is constant spiritual warfare between the forces of God and Satan. Jesus prayed that God will keep His people pure and give them joy, peace and unity. He also prayed that God would protect His people from Satan’s power.
The power of Christian unity is God’s love within His people. There are people who have never known Him. They have rejected Him. Those who know Him now and love Him will be transformed and will be with Him in heaven.
The basis of the unity Jesus prays for is the adherence to the revelation God showed to the first disciples through Jesus. We are to be united in a common belief of the truth that was received in God’s Word.
Christians are all redeemed by the same blood and are going to heaven. They have the same wants, the same enemies, the same joys. They are divided into different denominations, but they will be united in heaven. They are all children of God. This unity will be complete when there are no controversies, no envying, no arguments, no jealousies.
When we do what Jesus calls us to do, unity happens. That doesn’t mean we will agree about everything. It does mean we’ll have a humble spirit of unity. If we want to have this unity, we have to stay on mission. We can’t allow division to gain a foothold among the body of Christ. When we as Christians fight and bicker among ourselves, we encourage other people not to listen to God’s Word.
When we join together, we reveal God’s love in ways that can’t be seen when we try to do things alone. Our efforts are multiplied because of our obedience. People will respond to God in a much greater dimension when we operate in unity.
Unfortunately, competition has penetrated the church so much that many churches and Christian organizations approach ministry like a sports event. They see their mission as a business that seeks to gain market share among Christians-donors, members, influence-all in the name of God. When God sees this, He probably asks Himself, “Whatever happened to John 17:23?” Sometimes we have to remind our fellow Christian servants that we are all on the same team. We should be seeking to impact the Kingdom of God, not increase our own market share.
What is happening in the church is a reflection of what is happening in society, especially in large urban centres. Families are spread out from coast to coast. We barely know our neighbours. We see ourselves as individuals, living as individuals and concerned with our individual welfare. As a result, we isolate ourselves and immerse ourselves in the virtual reality of television, Internet and video games. These are poor substitutes for real flesh and blood relationships.
There is a statement about believers: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” The word essentials refers to the most important theological doctrines like that of the Bible being the Word of God, Jesus Christ being the only way to the Father, and salvation coming through Christ and Christ alone. Those are the essentials. We don’t ever flex on essentials.
But in nonessentials, liberty. What are nonessentials? Things like the style of music. Some people like it loud. Some people like it soft. Some people like a certain style. Some people like another style. These are secondary issues. We should never divide over them.
Finally, in all things, charity, which is another word for love. God calls us to be loving.
What is Jesus’ concern for those to come? It’s not about dogma or right belief. It’s not about who’s in and who’s out. It’s not about proper behaviour or perfect speech. Jesus’ concern is that they know their oneness with God. It fills them fully and completely with God’s love.
Jesus longs for a community of believers that understand God works in and through them. He wants a community of believers that know they are in and through God. Jesus wants a community of misfits that somehow know deep within what it means to be in God and God in them.
When Jesus made this statement about unity in John 17:23, He gave us the key to bringing salvation to many. He was telling us that when His body is unified, the non-Christian would be able to see who Jesus really is-the Son of God. Are we contributing to unity in the Body of Christ? Or are we contributing to a spirit of competition? We should ask God how we can be an instrument of unity in His Body.
The unity of the church is essential to its mission to reach out to a hurting world. If humankind sees people of many differences and diversities living in joyous common cause and unwavering, grateful commitment to each other, and if these united people say that the love of Christ has done it and lives in their unity, then conclusions may be reached about Jesus-and perhaps about the Oneness of love that is God.
Jesus wants us to experience the priceless gift of unity. He knows it is a means of grace that will help us grow deeper in love with Him and walk by faith. God doesn’t throw us into life as Christians without also giving us a means of knowing Him and how to show His love to others. God’s Word is our roadmap and along with fellow believers God helps us better understand how to live out His Word.
This unity is not so much realized as the result of weighty theological discussions, but in working together to stand alongside those who have been enslaved and are now free. This is a unity of action and love lived out for the sake of all who have been set free and are now trying to live into that freedom.
Believers come from all over the world. Despite these differences, they are united by their love of God and their desire to see His Kingdom on earth. The best way to maintain that unity is to pray for each other-just like Jesus did.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp.1472)
- “We are One.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4KIds.com
- Fredrikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 248-250)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr,: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1494-1497)
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- Os Hillman, “Listening to the Father’s Heart-February 27, 2019.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Os Hillman, “The Spirit of Competition.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sharon Betters, “Life-Giving Encouragement Happens in Community.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Dr. Jack Graham, “The Key in Creating Christian Unity.” Retrieved from www.jackgraham.org
- “John in 21: Chapter 17.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Pastor Greg Laurie, “Unity, Liberty and Charity.” Retrieved from www.harvest.org
- Christian Fox, “United in Christ for Community,” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Paul Simpson Duke, “John 17:20-26.” Retrieved from https://blogs.baylor.edu/truettpulpit/2016/04/25/john-1720-26/
- Alan Brehm, “That the World May Believe.” Retrieved from http://thewakingdreamer.blogspot.com/2013/05/that-world-may-beleive.htm
- “Sounds Like a Plan.” Retrieved from http://crossings.org/text-study/7th-sunday-of-easter-gospel-year-c/
- Rev. Janet Hunt, “A Slave Girl Set Free and the Unity to Which Jesus Calls Us.” Retrieved from http://dancingwiththeword.com/a-slave-girl-set-free-and-the-unity-Jesus-calls-us-to/