In John 17, we read about Jesus praying before His imminent crucifixion. He spends most of the chapter praying for His followers, and He prayed for their unity.
Joh 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
I think it is particularly interesting that Jesus prays for His followers to be one as He and the Father are one. On one hand, they are distinct. At the same time, they are one. It is the mystery of the Trinity, but that is what Jesus is praying for His followers on earth.
What does that mean for us?
I think this means that we are distinct as Christians. There are different characteristics among different groups of Christians. There are no two churches that are the same even within denominations. That is where the distinct features seems to come out for me.
However, we’re still one body of Christian believers. Just because someone doesn’t go to “my” church doesn’t mean they are not part of the one universal family of believers.
I know that some people can get hung up on this one. However, it seems to me that there are certain things about Christianity that are nonnegotiable. Being a Christian requires a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ as an example. There is no way to avoid that for someone who is a member of the family of Jesus Christ. However, is it necessary to either allow music in a service or not allow music? There are some churches that don’t allow music, and there are some that allow music. It doesn’t seem to be one of those doctrines that is necessary for a Christian to rather affirm or deny. However, it gets back to that point of being distinct.
People will dispute over what exact things are negotiable and what things are essential, but this verse out to me as an illustration of how we relate to each other as fellow Christians.