John 17 is Jesus’ prayer for those who believe in him. He asks one thing of the Father for them: oneness. “That they may be one, just as we are one” (v. 22).
Scan the religious landscape. You’ll see religions, and within those, denominations and sects. Within denominations and sects, you’ll notice further individuation from others as they specify, differentiate and dress up exclusion. Dialogue between religions or denominations might appear theologically soft or insufficiently provincial. So its scarcity increases.
Why did Jesus pray for unity?
Our first sin, rebellious independence, has led us here, to the struggle with one another. This willful independence cuts us off from God. It alienates us from one another. Because of this, he sent us out of the Garden.
The ultimate Father imparts the ultimate timeout: “Get out and stay out. Figure out how to get along. Then you can begin to understand me, what I want, why you’re here. Till then, work it out among yourselves.”
At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “Wherever two or three of you come together in my name, I am there.” He recites the second commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is like the first: “Love the Lord your God.”
We couldn’t understand relational unity then. We still can’t. Thus, Jesus gave us his words and example of how we might reconnect with one another and with God. While we might treat relationships with God and others as exclusive from one another, for Jesus, they’re inseparable.
This makes sense, especially when one considers the crazy things Jesus tells us to do. Can we do anything he says without the help of someone else? Love an enemy? Offer a cheek to a fist? Forgive seventy times seven?
This unity idea pleases Jesus. He wants us together. He wants us closer to him. But we need it right with one another to have it right with him. Till we do, we remain cut off, shut out.
Our love for each other is the piety God desires.
Do you believe oneness pleases God?
What is your idea of oneness or unity?
How does this line up with the Lord's idea? Does it?
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