John 17:20-21: Jesus prayed, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Devotion: Union with God in Christ is the goal of Christian spirituality. The goal of Christian living is not self-improvement (i.e., being the best spouse, parent, neighbor, worker, or citizen). Transcendental meditation (emptying oneself for spiritual enlightenment) is not the goal of Christian spiritual practices, for baptized believers are called to be filled with God the Holy Spirit. Scripture memorization is not the goal of Christian maturity, but it is a helpful practice towards union with God in Christ. Membership in a counter-cultural movement, or political ideology, is not the goal of Christian spirituality, for Jesus prayed, “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” Being one with the Father, as Jesus Christ is one with God, is the goal of the Christian life.
Seeking oneness with God requires submission and surrender to the revelation of God in Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew believers could not be one with God, and the community of the faithful, without God’s miraculous intervention and transformation that occurs in Christ. Sinful humans want to be the center of all things, as the serpent tempted our First Parents. Christ came to redeem the righteous order of the universe: God first, others second, ourselves third. As the Father was working in Jesus Christ, so now the living Spirit of God abides and aligns the believer in the image and intimacy of the Trinity.
One of the petitions of Jesus’ prayer was that God would make believers one in Christ as a witness to the world. This is a grand request: to make future believers one. Jesus asked the Father to lay-out and construct a Church that revealed the divine image and intimacy of the One-in-Three, Three-in-One Godhead. The Savior asked his Father to create a community of believers who would exist for one purpose: being one. God fashioned a people in faith.
The fruit of God’s formative work was world-wide witness. Our congregational unity testifies to our Christian maturity (God in us) and God’s work in the world, just as Jesus’ oneness with the Father was a witness to the Apostles. How can bitterly divided people tell a fractured world about the unifying love of God in and for Christ? Unity for global evangelism will require that the Church move beyond tolerance to transformation, from happy friends to harmony, from liking one another to self-sacrificing love.
My pastoral friend expressed it best in her benediction: “Go in peace and live in unity with God, with yourself, with others, and with all of Creation.” Amen and amen.
Prayer: Father, make me one with your people, and your people one with me, in Christ as you are one with your son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Prayer Exercise: “Benediction and Blessing,” page 123, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown. All rights reserved.