Lutheran theologian Walter Obare Omwanza has stated that “the unity of the church is given by God and not an achievement of human beings.” No human action can create the true unity that humanity desires. Omwanza echoes the prayer of Jesus in John 17. In John 17, while in the Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for unity of the disciples. This unity was not to be for the sake of unity alone, but it has deep theological significance for the world. The unity of the followers of Christ will provide a witness to the world that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who has defeated sin and death for all time. Unity is not a wish dream nor is it an ideal. It is a reality found only in the Triune God that communicates the gospel in a mighty way.
Jesus prays for our unity within the church because unity is naturally formed between two forces that at one point in time were opposed. As we read in Paul’s writings, there were tensions between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. There were tensions within congregations between families and friends. When the people of God are conflicted with one another and struggling to be together, we obstruct the purpose for our being. Jesus tells us this in John 17. In his body, he has brought together the Holy God and sinful humanity. That is considered impossible, but Jesus did it. And if he can do that, he can unify the body of his disciples whatever their differences. We should rejoice and be encouraged by this news!
In Ephesians 1:1-2, Paul opens his letter by addressing the people of Ephesus as saints. Many times, we do not think of ourselves as saints. We often think that a saint is a perfect person who does most everything correctly. However, the Bible teaches us that everyone who trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, even though we are imperfect, are God’s saints. These folks in Ephesus were faithful to Christ and that is the only requirement to be considered a saint. Therefore, in Christ, fallen humanity has hope and assurance that we are all saints with a purpose to glorify God.
As we consider all that Christ has done for us, may we always remember that he has prayed and continues to pray for us. He prays for the unity of his saints. If we follow Jesus, we are his saints in this world and we have been reconciled to God and one another. May we live always to fulfill his prayer in our world. May we live in the truth that Jesus is God’s Son who came to save the world from its sins. Amen.