…watch over them so that they will be united as one, even as we are one. I pray for them all to be joined together as one, even as you and I, Father, are joined together as one. I pray for them to become one with us so that the world will recognize that you sent me. For the very glory you have given to me I have given them so that they will be joined together as one and experience the same unity that we enjoy. You live fully in me and now I live fully in them so that they will experience perfect unity…(Portions of John 17, Jesus’ Prayer for us)
There are a few images here. We are being watched – by people and by God. What we are being watched for isn’t for a performance review. We are being watched for how we love each other. There is a weighty thing that hangs in the balance and becomes the greatest witness of the gospel. When we enter the kingdom way of unity, Jesus says that the world will believe He was the Sent One. Supernatural behaviour fosters a supernatural belief.
Do we think that this calling to love one another is like Grandma’s apple pie, going down smooth and sweet? It’s not. It’s hard. True love has no fluff to it. It’s the most challenging part of our lives. It requires the deep inner work of acknowledging our hurts, where they are wounds upon wounds, leading us to honesty about our anger and great sense of injustice. From there we face the monster of resistance to humility, avoiding God in case He sees or asks for something we don’t want Him to. We are desperate to plead our case and have people join our side so that we can stand justified before people, ourselves and God. Our knees have to bend and our necks stiffen as we call out for grace to bow before the Great I Am who will not change His call on us, no matter what. We have to face our own brokenness, failings and sins or we cannot bear when others express theirs in relation to us.
I wish I could describe the goal in such a way that we would be far more willing to take the inner journey of love than we are. It’s found in these verses. We have been given the glory of God from Jesus. I don’t even know what that fully means but I know it is incredible! This glory has been given so that we can experience the same unity with each other that the Trinity has. How mind blowing is this?! And then, oh, may this bring a great yearning in our heart…then we have Jesus fully living in us and we are joined to the Trinity. This is what we experience when we enter the inner kingdom work of the above, again and again.
I’m just about finished a new biography on Eugene Peterson. (He wrote The Message.) Eugene agonized many times over how we Christians hate each other. He lived to be a true Pastor, meeting people where they were at, and did not make things about right or wrong (even though he had wonderful convictions). He knew that when we get into right or wrong, it’s a very short distance to hate. Near the end of his life, when dementia was setting in, someone asked for an interview. In the interview, he was asked pointed questions on his stance on the LGBTQ and same sex marriage. His answers weren’t what the general conservative Christians wanted to hear and the vicious slaughtering began. At the end of the life of a man who gave himself to the building up and loving of all. Something about reading his story, his inner thoughts from his journal, the way he always sought God for himself and knew success was poison to the soul, how he struggled with drinking a little too much bourbon some nights and how he gave gobs of money to people in need…really made his end of life slaughtering that much more horrifying.
I am broken about the way I don’t love when I disagree, when I hurt, when injustice happens.
Read the verses out loud.
Lay down with your arms wide open in a position of welcoming the searching of the Spirit.
Ask the Spirit to show you where you are not loving one of your brothers or sisters in Christ.
Ask the Spirit to show you where you are at (as described in the paragraph about love not being like Grandma’s apple pie).
Change your posture to kneeling (if you can – if not, imagine it). Bend your head, feel the stiffness in your neck but bow it down as far as you can. Ask the Holy Spirit to journey with you as you commit yourself to the inner work of love by God’s grace. He will give it to you!
Read the paragraph about the goal – the glory – the beauty of being seamlessly joined to each other and to the Trinity.
This is a journey my friend. You are not going to get to the love in one day, especially if the wound is deep. But keep on until He gets you there. Allow for each part. You have been given the glory of God for this. You can do it.
Photo by Toan Nguyen - Unsplashed