An Impossible Unity

Jesus prays for us. He prays for the believers and churches in New England.

One of his prayers is recorded in John 17:20-22: “I pray…for those who believe in me through their [the disciples’] word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you…so that they may be one as we are one.”

Jesus prays that we will be unified, but the unity he seeks is a divine unity. Jesus wants us to be one as he and the Father are one.

But that is impossible! There is no way our unity on earth can compare to the unity of the Persons of the Trinity!

Jesus talks about his oneness with the Father in only one other passage of Scripture. In John 10:30 he says, “I and the Father are one.” In the surrounding text of John 10, we can see at least three ways Jesus and the Father are one – ways in which we can be one even now as his church on earth.

1) Oneness of works

Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus declares that he has come to earth to do the works the Father has laid out for him to do. In John 10, Jesus mentions his works in verses 25, 32, and 37-38. Of course, Jesus is largely speaking of the signs and miracles he has been performing all over Judea and Galilee.

However, in verse 32, Jesus calls his works “good works.” Jesus’ entire life and ministry, including his miracles, were characterized by goodness: righteousness, love, mercy, etc. His works displayed the good character of his Father.

We can be unified in the same way – by living consistent Christ-like lives. We can join together in doing the good works the Father lays out for us to do. When the world looks at us, they should see people not only living by the same moral standards, but also living out of the same heart of love.

2) Oneness of words

In John 10:25,27, Jesus references his words. As he says in John 7:16, “My teaching isn't mine but is from the one who sent me.” Jesus passes on the message that the Father has given him.

In the Gospel of John, the message of Jesus is a message of who the Father is and who Jesus is as the Son of God. In John 10:27, Jesus emphasizes his words as the call of the Good Shepherd: “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus’ words summon his sheep to believe in him and follow him.

As Jesus’ followers, his message should be our message. We should be proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the world around us, calling out to others to believe in him and follow him.

We should all be sharing the same message. When the world hears us speak, they should be hearing us share the same essential gospel. We should be like a choir. We may be singing different parts, but it should all be the same song.

3) Oneness of mission

Really, the works and words of Jesus were all in service of the mission the Father had given him. That mission is the focus of John 10.

The most important “good work” of Jesus is that he lays down his life for the sheep (verses 11,15,17-18). The central message of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John is that we ought to believe in him that we might have eternal life (vv. 25-27).

The easiest way to find unity is to join together in the same mission – the mission of fishing for men and making disciples. When we are aligned to the same purpose, it is easy to cooperate in concrete and visible ways. The world should be able to see that we are all working for the same ends.

We have seen three ways in which the Father and the Son are one. These are ways we can join in unity with the Father and the Son, and by doing so, we become one with one another. The churches of Rhode Island and New England should be living out the same good works, sharing the same core message, and cooperating together toward the same great mission. Then we will be one as the Father and the Son are one.

Randall Curtis serves as the Rhode Island Regional Coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England.