Two wise friends, Eric Swanson and Sam Williams, were the first to bring my attention to the significance of Jesus' prayer for all believers in John 17:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. [italics mine]Hundreds of times I've read these verses and still never caught it. Through my Western cultural lenses I would think, "Wouldn't that be nice if we could all be unified." But here, Jesus doesn't give us that luxury of thought. His prayer effectively hinges global evangelization on one thing: The unity of believers.
How should we respond to Christ's prayer? We would all agree that unity is a noble goal and should be pursued, even at great cost. But let's be honest. The realist in all of us finds the thought boring, an inhibitor to creativity and rapid expansion, an unnecessary burden, or some combination thereof. But how should the great importance Jesus places on unity translate into our modern world?