Over the next three Sundays, we will be exploring the issue of Christian unity. Through these sermons I hope to press on our hearts and consciences a zeal for Christian unity. Why? The first reason that we should be zealous for unity as Christians is that our Lord and Savior, in His last recorded prayer (besides his prayer to God on the cross), prayed that his people might come to come to "complete unity" (John 17:23). In what is often called Jesus' "High Priestly Prayer" we are brought into the very heart of Jesus. We see what it is he values, what he prays for to the Father; we see his heart.
When I go on a trip away from my home that requires me to fly in an airplane I almost always write notes to Jenny, my wife, and each of my children. It is not that I expect to die, but leaving my family feels weighty and I am always sobered to think of leaving my family fatherless. So I write notes to them. I tell them of my love. I tell them what I see in each of them. I share with them my heart; what I want them to know if I don't return. And I expect my children to read these letters and take them to heart; I want these words to have "weight" in their lives.
In this prayer, Jesus knew he was on a path that would lead to the Cross. The time had come for his greatest Work. And in this prayer, we see Jesus' heart that his people, his followers, his brothers and sisters would be brought to complete unity. His prayer, His last prayer, should bear a special "weight" in our heart and soberness to our actions.
The other reason that we should be zealous for Christian unity is that the opposite of unity, Christian disunity, damages our witness as Christians. Jesus prayed that we would be brought to "complete unity" to "let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you loved me" (John 17: 23).
When Christians are divided and divisive, we damage our witness to the gospel that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to be the Savior of the world. When we walk in division, contention, and strife, we fail to live fully into the reality that as Christians we are beloved sons and daughters of God.
That is why we should be zealous for Christian unity.