“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
We rarely notice when our bodies are working the way God designed them to work. We have many different parts and complex systems; yet for some reason we expect it all to work in concert. Our standard of unity for our physical bodies is high, a fact which becomes obvious when something breaks down. About a month ago I rolled my ankle in my parents’ driveway, and for weeks I noticed every time I took a step. The different parts of our bodies are deeply connected to one another. When something’s not right, we notice.
When Paul describes the church as the body of Christ, he is using this body metaphor to say something remarkable about the people of God. Every person who is in Christ is a different part; yet for some reason the Lord expects us to be vitally connected to one another. His standard of unity for His body is extraordinarily high. He prays that we would be “one”—and then “perfectly one”—in a way that reflects the oneness enjoyed by the Father and the Son (John 17:21, 23). In our experience, however, we often settle for a far lower standard of “unity”. We gather with Christians who are like us so we don’t have to work through any differences. We just try to get along, or we avoid the believers who annoy us. The unity that we enjoy in our churches—if we could even call it that—is often superficial and shallow. If we’re honest, we notice a lot of disease in the body. Pride, jealousy, greed, lust, and anger divide us and cause us to limp along and miss the wonder of being one body united in Jesus Christ. We see it…and the world sees it. The world is not impressed because in many ways the church looks no different from the world. So why would people believe that we have found something worthy of their attention?
Connecting to one another is more than gathering around the proverbial campfire and singing “Kumbaya”. Connecting to one another is living as the body of Christ united by “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:6). Connecting to one another is working out our salvation as God works in us (Philippians 2:12-13), unpacking the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ that reconciles us to God and to one another (Ephesians 2:13-14). Connecting to one another is embracing the reality that Jesus is Lord, and everything else that unites and divides us must bow the knee to Him. Connecting to one another is seeking to know and love—and to be known and loved—as the Lord has known and loved us (Psalm 139:1; John 13:34-35). Connecting with one another is pursuing the oneness for which Jesus prayed and died, so that people in the world might see something they can’t explain.
When we think of connecting to one another like this, we realize that we often neglect this priority in our busy, productive, yet isolated lives (John 17:21-23). If we’re in Christ, we are the body of Christ, but we struggle to live like it. And we have an enemy who would love to keep it that way. When the Holy Spirit leads us to pray for oneness, to dig in, to be known, to reach across the world’s lines, to offer welcome, to love as Christ has loved us, Satan will shudder and the world will take notice. Because the world doesn’t have the desire or the resources to be one, but in Jesus Christ, we do. “We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). We rarely notice when our bodies are working as they should, but the world can’t help but notice when the body of Christ is working as He designed it.
How is the Lord leading you to connect to other members of the body of Christ in this season? Does your life testify that you need others and they need you to live the Christian life? How are you seeking to make the big church smaller so that you and others can be known? If the only witness the world had was the oneness of your church, would that unity get their attention? Would it cause them to believe that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world?