Why Unity May Not Be the Goal


November 7, 2020

John 17:20-23 (NIV)

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.


Unity. Unity. Unity.

Everyone says this passage is about unity. What if it’s not?

What if, in fact, unity is not the point? Here’s what it says:

“that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

Jesus is praying for our relationships with each other to carry the same essence and ethos as his relationship with his Father. There is a word for this: Love.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10)

Jesus brings the entire program down to one command, “Love one another as I have loved you.” 

This text is about love. How can I say that? 

Here’s why: “so that the world may believe that you have sent me. “

It takes us back to another familiar text. Rewind the tape about 14 chapters. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

The Father puts all the freight and weight of his love for the world on his Son. Jesus puts all the freight and weight of the world’s faith on his followers love for each other. It comes down to our relationships, which is why I am fond of saying, “Our relationships are the mission.” It’s why we are investing ourselves so deeply in what we call banded discipleship. We believe Jesus prayer will only be answered in a big way through being answered in millions and millions of small ways. 

Unity is not the goal. It is not even the outcome. The goal is love. The outcome is great awakening. 


Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who shows us what love is by becoming love incarnate in his relationship with us. Come Holy Spirit and make real the love of Jesus in our love for one another. Lead me into even one relationship where I can become the life laying down love of Jesus for another. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


  1. What do you make of this reading of the text? 
  2. Why is it that we tend to think of unity as the goal and why do we think of unity as the outcome of agreeing with one another.
  3. Do any of your relationships approach the character of the relationship between the Father and the Son? Are you becoming love? How so? Where? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. My opinion regarding the true understanding of this text remains, that it is still about achieving the unity that exists within the Trinity. That unity is expressed by Christ’s followers love for one another. I believe John’s first epistle describes how that plays out in greater detail. In my opinion, the main problem is not that the Church has misunderstood the true meaning of this text, but confused the meaning of unity. Many believe that unity and uniformity are synonymous. True unity exists through diversity, as each of us are unique in our gifting and natural abilities. Love covers a multitude of sins. I currently have no relationships that approach the unity that is expressed within the Trinity. I am facilitating a type of fellowship gathering on a weekly basis that is loosely modeled after t he text in Acts 2:42. We are not quite yet at the point of their love for one another, but we are moving that direction. I believe that we orthodox believers here in the USA are going to experience an increasing amount of persecution. This will complete what needs to occur to bring about an awakening.

  2. But we do have to have unity in believing that the primary goal of the church is to love one another within the church as well as people out in the world. In short, it is not about what we do, but how well we relate to others.

  3. Love of the Father, is only accomplished through the spirit with in. If the Holy Spirit is not the power behind our love then it will be of self. Unity in life is the same as in marriage when 2 become 1. In the spirit realm we as Christian become unified as we walk in HIS spirit. All our righteousness is as filthy rags unless it is of the Spirit.

  4. Unity of love is the power to walk in the Spirit agreeing with the Spirit that we are his. Unity is the agreeing that apart from Jesus we can do nothing. To love God and love others is surrendering to the Spirit.

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