Let’s take a moment and think about what it means to trust what God says is possible regarding authentic community. Here are three brief examples of what God says He intends for us:
1. We are to experience a divine unity.
That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me.” John 17:21-23
Where do we even start to break this down? How about with the understanding that this is not talking about some time in the distant future. While unity will indeed characterize the Kingdom, here the Lord Jesus is not referencing the sweet by and by. He is talking about the here and now…this present moment when the world needs to believe and know that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
Accepting that this is for us now, notice the connection Jesus makes between our unity with one another and the unity shared by the Godhead, “as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” and “even as we are one”. This is something that is truly impossible with men! Many times we have a hard time even tolerating each other so the idea that we should share a unity that mirrors the unity of the Godhead is unfathomable. And yet this is exactly what Jesus is saying is not only intended and possible, it is necessary to advance the Kingdom.
When we place this expectation up against our experience we tend to back away from the plain interpretation of these verses. We work hard at extracting the breathtakingly beautiful reality that Jesus is expressing here, reducing them to a tepid statement of ‘positional reality’ to avoid the practical implications of this reality.
But the fact is that the world needs to see the evidence of this divine unity among brethren if they are going to believe and know the extraordinary truth of the gospel…that the Father sent the Son to redeem us from our sin and bring us back into unity with Himself and others. It is this reality of divine unity that separates Christians from all other religions. Only Christianity can claim that it is God in us and through us reconciling the world to Himself -- and demonstrate it in our unity with brethren!
Notice also that Jesus indicates that this is an ongoing process, “that they may be made perfect in one.” It does not happen all at once. Unity is something that is being perfected in the messy, sometimes nasty, reality of everyday life and relationships. Unity is being perfected in my intentional involvement with that brother or sister that I just "can't stand." It is being perfected as we stand for one another and with one another that God might get His will expressed in each of our lives.
If we are going to be perfected in unity we need to "enter the danger," i.e. be willing to step into that uncomfortable relationship and risk the misunderstanding, the cold shoulder and even outright rejection, so that God might unite our hearts and minds. We have to remember we grow into that unity as we trust what God says is possible, lay aside our preconceived notions, abandon our dependence on our own resources and embrace the reality of the work of the Holy Spirit in us and through us. As we are trustingly obedient, God is doing a transformational work in us, bring us from glory to glory, and perfecting unity.