Jesus Prays for All Believers
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 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.
In chapter 17 Jesus prays on behalf on himself, his disciples, and finally the world. In this prayer we see Jesus' heart for those God has given him, and all they would reach for his name. Jesus knows that he has showed his disciples everything they need to know about his Father, and now he is leaving them and entrusting him with the mission he was given. The mission was to make God known and to draw all people to Him through his own life, death and resurrection. To believe in Jesus was to know God and participate in the fellowship that God has within the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Now that Jesus is going back to heaven where he came from, his prayer is that the believers would be one. Jesus realizes that the world is going to hate them, just as they hated him. So he prays that God would protect them from unbelief and discouragement. And key to this protection is that they would "be one". Jesus lifts up the unity he has with the Father, and prays that this would be a sign to the world that He is in them and they are in Him. As John has taught all along, Jesus wants to know us and he wants us to know him in a personal and intimate. This unity protects the church from the evil one, whose primary tactic is to cause division and strife in the body of Christ.
As we look at the church today, we see a lot of diversity. There are hundreds of denominations of all kinds of "stripes" and "flavors". While there is nothing necessarily wrong with that as long as Jesus is still at the center, I think it does sometimes isolate us from each other. What is especially harmful is when there is "infighting" in denominations, or a lot of time is spent judging each other on doctrine, practice or whatever. Doctrine is of course important, as we need to guard against false teaching but it can also lead to pride and a sense of religious superiority. This is very much like the Pharisees acted in Jesus' day.
I find it more helpful to focus on what we have in common. What unites us is that Jesus Christ came into the world to show us God's love. He proved God's love for us by dying on a cross, and then being raised from the dead. It we start there, we have complete unity. When we argue and divide on theological issues such as "infant baptism" vs. "believer's baptism". or the "social gospel" vs. "the evangelical gospel" it can take our eyes off of the mission of reaching all people for Christ. If we focused more on what we have in common, we will spend more time working together to reach those who don't know Jesus. Jesus spent his time here on earth showing the world God's love through what he taught, how he lived, and who he loved and showed grace to all those he met.
How can you work to keep the unity we have in Christ? How can you keep an open mind with those who may not see things exactly as you do? Can you reach out to someone with a different theological stripe than you and work together for the sake of the Gospel, The one thing that is crystal clear is that Jesus wants us to be one, as he and the Father are one. By this the world will know that we are of Him if we love one another.