unity | John 17.11-19
Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:11-19 | ESV
“Abba, Holy Abba, diligently protect them with the identity you entrusted to me so that through that shared identity they may experience a deepening, harmonious oneness like ours. While I’ve been here with them, I’ve been here to protect them myself by exposing them to your mutually shared identity with me. Oh yes, I have been on guard, and not one of them has slipped through my fingers – except for the sad wretch that is fingering me – and that whole business was part of the plan announced by Ancient Writ.
But now it’s time to go – right to you, and so I say all this in the hearing of the wide world, so that they may have deep, abiding joy within themselves – joy that has my name written all over it. I gave them the Message, your Message – and the world is repulsed by them because they’re not member of the club – any more than I’m a member of the club. I’m not asking for you to remove them from the hostile world system, but to protect them from the Enemy, from the Evil that stalks them there. No, they don’t have any place in that hostile world system any more than I do.
Mark off their uniqueness, their unique calling and nature derived from the deep, divine reality they have tasted – that taste of divine reality coming to them through your Word among them. First you sent me into the wide world, and now I send them out into it. Marked off with my own uniqueness in you for their sakes, so we can both occupy this same unique, hallowed ground of identity and divine reality.” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, “Christianity consists of 6 major ecclesiastico-cultural blocs, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries.”
If we’ve been around church much at all, we are painfully aware that over the journey of the past two millennia, there has, far too often, been more walls than walk.
And while we can celebrate or lament (depending on where we’re sitting) the fact that there tends to be less inter-denominational division and hostility among those who claim the name of Christ, the fact remains that Jesus followers continue to be bitterly divided, if not on traditional denominational lines, than along other political, moral, and theological fault lines.
It would appear that Jesus’ prayer for unity still awaits it’s fulfillment.
But here is the remarkable thing.
Jesus is facing rejection, shame, torture, and death – and where is his passion directed? Towards those eleven guys stumbling along with him right then and there in the darkness. While he presents and consecrates himself to his Abba in this prayer, so little of the prayer is actually about himself.
It’s all wrapped around them.
His eyes don’t range far over the horizon, asking for God to save the wide world by bringing world peace. This is no Miss America speech. It’s Jesus’ speech zeroing in on the shadowed faces standing right next to him in the dark.
He prays for them.
And his prayer?
Keep them from screwing up?
Help them to keep their facts straight?
Make them successful religious entrepreneurs?
A deep inner experience of oneness flowing out of their mutual experience of oneness with his Abba.
This goes a bit deeper than a dying mother with her last breath begging her children to get along with each other after she is gone.
But that’s not a bad analogy.
Pity we haven’t listened better.
What do you see as being the key to unity in the body of Christ? How well have you been making use of this key yourself?
Lord, show me the part that I can play right here, right now, with these faces standing around me, in seeing your prayer for our unity and oneness realized. Make me an instrument of your peace. Through Jesus.