"The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." - John 17:22-23
This passage has been weighing on me for quite some time. Nestled in the middle of "The High Priestly Prayer," it is easy to just gloss over. We have probably read it or heard it spoken dozens of times. But, there are two seemingly insignificant words that make all the difference in understanding what Jesus was truly telling us: "so that."
"So that..." is a phrase that indicates the purpose or importance of a certain course of action(s) previously described. It implies that whatever was just said must happen in order to accomplish whatever follows the words "so that." In this passage, the course of action previously described is a directive to the people of God: "that they may become perfectly one."
This one-ness that Jesus describes is directly related to the one-ness that he and the Father experience. God's people are to be active participants in this one-ness as Jesus lives within us by the Spirit. But, we are also to be one with each other. This is the hard part.
For the sake of humility, let's ask ourselves the following questions. Do you feel "one" with God? Do you feel "one" with your spouse? Do you feel "one" with your family members? Do you feel "one" with close friends? Do you feel "one" with everybody in your church?
Certainly, we each find at least a single question to which we answer, "Well...not really." We are not perfectly one. I might argue that many of us are not even becoming perfectly one as Jesus instructs us to be.
It's much more comfortable to be "one" only with the people that I feel most intimate with. It's much more preferable to be "one" only with the people that look like me, talk like me, think like me. It's much more effortless to be "one" only with the people that I understand or agree with fully. Sometimes, I am at odds with God. Sometimes, I am in conflict with my wife. Sometimes, I am angry at a family member. Sometimes, I do not want to be around certain friends. Sometimes, I am frustrated with church people. It's easier to just stay that way than it is to be "one."
But Jesus does not settle for this. He pushes us out of our comfort-zones. He draws us away from our preferences. He challenges us beyond our opinions.
One-ness is the goal. To be "one" looks a lot different than what we may be used to. It looks like abiding in Christ always. It looks like love and respect. It looks like confession, forgiveness and reconciliation. It looks like radical generosity. It looks like unity without uniformity, and further without the expectation of uniformity. It looks like meeting each others' needs, and showing no partiality. It looks like caring for the poor, the sick, and the discouraged. It looks like celebrating each other's victories and mourning each other's losses. In short, it looks like heaven. Jesus prays that we "may become perfectly one."
"So that..." What? Remember, whatever follows is the purpose and importance of the course of action previously described.
"So that the world may know that [the Father] sent [Jesus] and loved them even as [the Father] loved [Jesus]."
Don't miss this! This is huge. Jesus is essentially saying that the love we personally demonstrate for one another is the God-chosen revelation to "the world" that the Father loves them. Woah!
Another way to say this would be that if we do not demonstrate love for one another, true one-ness together with Christ, then "the world" may not know that the Father loves them. This is devastating to me, because I know that I am not that loving, and I am not always concerned with the pursuit of one-ness.
Jesus demonstrated his one-ness with the Father and his deep love for us ultimately upon the cross, and furthermore in his resurrection. According to Romans 8:11, "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." Jesus' resurrection life is inside of us, and his Spirit can and will work through us as we pursue one-ness with each other. But now, as Christ's ambassadors, we are charged with the magnificent and terrifying responsibility of showcasing his love to everyone on this planet that does not know him yet.
We are to be the examples that people point at and say, "I want what they have. I want that kind of unity and one-ness. I want to experience the type of love they show to each other." Is this true of your relationship with God? Is this true of your marriage? Is this true of your family? Is this true of your friendships? Is this true of your church community?
Jesus tells us in John 13:35, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
"The world" needs to see our love for each other. All people need to see our love for each other. My prayer is that we take this responsibility extremely seriously.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES