Jesus Christ’s impassioned plea to the Father for us, those who believe on Him through the words of the apostles, was that we all be one:
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. John 17:20-23
Is this unity to be achieved at all costs? Should truth be sacrificed so that those who claim allegiance to Christ can profess a superficial unity through agreeing to disagree? No. Jesus prayed for this unity just after he prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Truth must come before unity. Truth is what sanctifies the followers of Christ from fallacious philosophies of the world. It does no good to be united in falsehood. Satan’s forces are united, but they are by no means obedient and pleasing to God (Luke 11:17-18).
This unity for which our Lord prayed is more extensive than many think. Notice the degree to which Jesus prays this unity will extend, “…as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee…that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one…” (John 17:21-23). Jesus prayed that His followers be united just as much as the Father and Son are united. Would the Father and the Son differ in their answers to what is required for salvation? Would they give different answers to whether or not we have all truth necessary to please them contained within the pages of the Bible? Would they give different answers to what the church is, how it is organized, the doctrine it is to teach, the work it is to be doing, and the worship it is to offer? There are matters in which Christians have liberty to differ: those matters which are not clearly addressed in the word of truth. Jesus is not calling us to function as clones without any distinctive features as individuals, but He does call us to be united on the truths of God’s word.
The results of such unity will further Christ’s cause handsomely. The world will be drawn to Jesus Christ when His followers are one. This end Jesus had in mind when He prayed “…that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21), and, “that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23).