Interior of an ornate library

Is Christian unity possible in a fallen, finite world?

Jesus prayed that we would love one another but it is hard in the fallen world where we live.

On the night he was betrayed before he was crucified, Jesus prayed for unity among his followers.

We see some much disunity among Christians today: denominational divisions, churches splitting, factions within churches, etc.

Why?

What was Jesus praying for? the Catholic answer

The Catholic answer usually centers around sacramental and organizational unity. People are united by the sacramental system and under the Pope. Before the Reformation there were many reforms and attempted reforms by emperors, council, and monastic leaders. The materialism, political corruption and immorality seemed to be out of control.

What was Jesus praying for? the Protestant answer

The Reformation brought a different answer. The organizational church was imperfect and corrupt. There were unbelievers in the organization church. Unity was the goal between true followers of Jesus. The Universal Church consisting of true followers of Jesus in all places and all times was at the core of unity.

C. S. Lewis’ Hall and Rooms

In the introduction to Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis talks about Christianity as a house with many rooms. The rooms are denominations. Lewis’ goal in the book was to lead someone into the hallway but they could not stay there. The hallway was mere Christianity, the common core held by all churches.

You had to choose a room. The rooms were where you worshipped and lived out your faith. You could spend time in the hallway to choose but you could not stay there.

He was right. There is a common core but there are differences among followers of Jesus.

The Source of Unity

The Passover night that Jesus had with his disciples culminated in his prayer for unity followed by Judas’ betrayal. His Jewish and Roman trials followed and then the crucifixion.

The account of the last night begins in John, chapter 13. Up to this point in John the tone was… not yet…my time has not come. In John 13:1, Jesus knew that the time had come.

The night begins with Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, telling them he is leaving, predicting his betrayal by one of them, and predicting Peter’s denial.

In 14:1, he tells them to not be troubled.

Then he gave them the basis for their life after his departure and the base for Christian unity.

He is preparing a place for them and us and is coming back for his people. (14:1-4)

He is the way to the Father. (14:5-14)

The Holy Spirit will come. (14:15-31)

If we remain in him as the branches are in the vine, we will bear fruit. (15:1-17)

The world will not accept us. (15:18-16:4)

What the Holy Spirit will do in the world. (16:5-16)

The disciples’ sadness will be turned to joy. (16:17-33)

The Christ centeredness of these passages is the basis for Christian unity. As we each focus on Jesus we grow closer to him and to each other.

Jesus prayed that we would love one another but it is hard in the fallen world where we live.

Questions for consideration:

How have you experienced the disunity among Christians?

What can you do to promote Christian unity?