“The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them and you in me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23 NASB)
These verses are part of a larger prayer Jesus prayed just before he was arrested and crucified. He knew he had done what was expected of him and he was longing for his disciples to be one in him. He wanted them to awaken to their role in his plan for his world. He said, “I pray that they may be one…” In a sense this has taken place for all that are willing to receive it. When you repent of your sins and receive Christ you are brought into a oneness with God through his Spirit. This means all that are in Christ are one, not only with Christ, but with each other.
Oneness in the Spirit is the only way we can move on to the next part of Jesus’ prayer which is for us to be perfected in unity. Being perfected in unity means we are brought to completion and implies maturity or being full grown. Once we receive Christ we must come to a fuller understanding of unity in the Spirit and the goal as stated here is “So that the world may know that (God) sent Jesus, and loved them (us), even as he loved Jesus.” In other words unity or oneness among Spirit filled, Christ lovers and followers is the way in which the world will become convinced Christ was sent by God and God loves them.
As you look through the writings of the Apostle Paul you will see he too was greatly concerned with Christians growing up and becoming one in Christ. He told the Corinthians “I could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ…” He went on to tell them “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.” He told them why by saying, “Since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” You see a sure sign to those looking on that we aren’t yet perfect, or mature, is division among followers of Jesus Christ.
In Galatians Paul said, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…” He longed for them to grow up in Christ. In the Ephesian letter he told us God gave the church “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.” He gave the church these various offices and gifting’s “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature (perfect) man to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” In Paul’s Philippians letter he said, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” The Colossians letter Paul came right out with it, saying “Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete (perfect) in Christ.”
There is just something about a group of people that love each other and live in union with one another. We can tell others about how God loves them and wants to save them, but according to Jesus’ prayer in John 17 there is one way others will really know it. That’s when they see us Christians living in oneness with each other.