Today’s Scripture: John 17:20-24
20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. 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. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!
When I was in seminary the Southern Baptist Convention was in turmoil. In fact, just a few weeks before my graduation, the president of our seminary (Southwestern Baptist in Ft. Worth) was fired by the trustees. They thought he was on the wrong side of the “battle”. Lot’s of things happened because of that SBC fight – including the fact that Westwood is no longer a Southern Baptist church but is rather a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church. For me personally, I have not identified as a Southern Baptist since 1995.
These things happen. Almost all of the Christian denominations in the US have a back-story that includes theological fights that caused a split. Many churches also experience splits in their history. It not a very pretty sight when it happens.
Which makes Jesus’ prayer in this passage all the more interesting. He prays that all his disciples will be “one” and experience “perfect unity”. Obviously, we have missed the mark that Jesus was desiring us to hit!
So how do we unify ourselves? How do we become “one”? Of course, one way would be to develop a strong central authority who adjudicates disagreements and enforces compliance. Add in the threat of eternal damnation if you disagree with that authority and you MIGHT create unity. But then again – probably not. And what kind of unity would it be?
Instead I think we need to look for a common denominator. For me, it’s John 3:16-17:
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
We can argue about HOW exactly God loves the world and what it means that his Son was “given”. We can disagree about what it means to “believe” in Jesus. We can even write books and have conferences about what it means for God to “save the world”. But the basics are there: God loves us. God sent Jesus. Jesus brings us to God.
The rest is just commentary.
God when we find ourselves disagreeing with other Christians over so many things, remind us of the prayer of Jesus for us to be one. Help us to focus on the basics of your love for us – the coming of Jesus – and your desire to unite with us.