Read: John 17:20-26
May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me (John 17:23).
I’ve witnessed church conflict close up, and it’s often not pretty. Accusation and counteraccusation, name-calling, gossip, betrayal, and heartache—all of these can oppose the fullness of life that God has brought. Unresolved conflict among God’s people can not only rip apart its members, but can also weaken and destroy our witness to a watching world.
But church life shouldn’t be defined by division and strife. We can see this in chapters 14–17 of John’s gospel as we read of Jesus’ conversations with His friends before His death. Jesus’ words prepared them not only for His death and resurrection, but also for their new life as His body. He promised they would never be alone, for through the Spirit, He would live and dwell in them (John 14:17, 17:23). And He prayed for their unity to reflect His unity with the Father: “As you are in me, Father, and I am in you” (John 17:21).
This amazing mystery of our union with God can lead us to the union with fellow believers that Jesus longed we experience: “May they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:21). The “perfect unity” believers can experience with God reveals His love in and through the church and to the world (John 17:23).
When Christ’s Spirit lives in us, we’re changed. Our transformation enables us to love others with the self-sacrificing love God showers on us. This means we can put away gossip and in-fighting. His grace enables us to apply the balm of love and forgiveness to old wounds as well as work to resolve conflicts with humility and grace. In this way the world can truly know we’re Christians by our love (John 13:35).
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