I believe it’s true that a person’s parting words before death often reveal his or her deepest desires, dreams or hopes. With this in mind, Jesus' prayer in John 17 reveals a lot about himself. Here it is, just before the arrest that would lead to his death on a cross, and who does Jesus think about? Us. First he prays that his disciples may be one as we are one (vs. 11), Later he adds, May they (all believers) be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (vs. 23)
I’ve heard a lot of teaching on this passage. Most of it called for a unity that is about lack of argument, pursuing common goals and putting aside division. It's about being nice and kind to one another. Given the context of this passage, Jesus' call to complete unity goes way beyond this. He’s calling us to the same unity that he experiences with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Now that’s mind-boggling! Can we mere humans here on earth possibly be drawn into that kind of unity? We must be able to, or Jesus wouldn’t have prayed for it. Besides that, he’s counting on it as a way for the world to be drawn to him and know his love.
I’m wondering how my small group experiences this kind of unity. I see glimpses of it in our desire to spend time together, our openness with one another, our reflections on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, our concern for each other’s lives beyond the group, and in the belly-laughs we share. If “complete unity” is the way to let the world know Jesus and His love, I want to experience it more and more.
Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful—Christian community is the final apologetic. (Francis Schaeffer)