[Image of three identical people]
Have you ever felt like church is primarily about looking the right way, saying the right things, acting a certain way? Jesus prayed for unity in the Church. He prayed that we’d “be one,” but what does being “one” really look like? Is it conformity? Is it the equivalent of being assimilated into some kind of collective? And why did He pray that we would be “one?”
We often have thought God makes us one because others won’t believe. We often define ourselves as “in” by defining others as out. But God makes us one in order that others would believe and be one. Did you realize you are “elect” so that others would believe? Abraham was “blessed to be a blessing to all the nations of the world.”
“He defines us as ‘in’, in order to bring others in. Jesus prays, ‘Father make them one so that the world may believe.’
‘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 (it means “set apart” in truth.) I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’
John 17: 17-21 (ESV)
Do you think God answers Jesus’ prayer?
He prays, ‘That the world may believe . . .’ But, believe what? An argument? A list? No. A Person. That the world may trust that Jesus is from God. That the world may trust the character of God and the character of Jesus.” – P.H.
But how would He do that? How would He make it so the world would see the person of Jesus?
Scripture tells us that He will do it by sanctifying us (settting us apart) and making us one–one with each other and with all who believe, and His prayer is for that oneness to be like the oneness He shares with the Father.
But what is unity?
Is it when we all look the same, act the same, wear the same clothes, say the same things? Play the same act? Is that what unity is?
“Well, you see that kind of unity is dis-unity, for it’s not a unity in truth (we are to confess one Word and the Word is a name). And unity based on rules is just an act by definition, for nobody obeys rules in their heart, or we wouldn’t call them rules, but desires. And uniforms? They don’t unite differences. They hide differences. Do you remember who invented the very first uniform? Adam and Eve—to hide their differences and act the same.
Our unity cannot be an act – for an act is a lie, and a lie can’t bear testimony to the truth. Unity is not just dressing the same, acting the same, or talking the same. According to Scripture, none of us are truly individual persons and none of us are free UNTIL God in Christ makes us free. Until then, we’re dead in sin . . . trapped in an illusion of life that is really death. And so God will ‘sanctify you in truth,’ ‘set you apart in truth.’ God your Father will find a way to separate you from the world’s false attempts at unity.
The church is often tempted by and conscripted by the world; especially when it relies on uniforms, writes rules, and formulates confessions trying to control people through shame, manipulation, and fear; especially when, absolutely when, the Church thinks she is an institution of this world.
God your Father will separate you from the lies of the world. Jesus said, … ‘You will be cast out of the synagogues.’ God your Father will separate and consecrate you in truth in order to tell you who you are and set you free. He does that with His Word–the Truth, who is Jesus. The world doesn’t know who you are and can’t tell you who you are.
Only your Father in Heaven knows who you truly are.
Only His Word can make you who you truly are.
You must be who you truly are, a person, a unique individual, truly free.
You see? There’s something that you must do, that no one else can do—except you and Jesus, who is your Fathers’ Word. And that thing is be yourself—the true you—unique individual and free—a person.
So God will separate you for a time,
Like He separated Joseph from his brothers,
Like He separated Moses from Israel,
Like He separated David from the kingdom,
Like He separated Jesus from humanity.
He will separate you; then He’ll send you back to bless your brothers… He makes you an individual, and He makes me an individual, so that we can be one.
So, Jesus prays,
… ‘I’m asking that these would be one, for I’ve given them the glory that you gave me. Make them one, not as the world is one, but as we are one.’
How are Jesus and God one? How is God one? Well, theologians debate this endlessly, but it seems the best we’ve been able to describe it is: God is three persons and one substance—three persons, yet one. They are one but not as the world tries to be one (by assimilation or conformity) but rather God is one in freedom where each person honors the other and glorifies the other.
The Spirit emanates from the Father and glorifies the Son.
The Son glorifies the Father, laying down His life and surrendering the Spirit.
The Father glorifies the Son and gives all judgment to the Son,
But the Son only does what the Father is doing in the power of the Spirit.
See, God is not one enormous self-centered person.
God is three persons, and each is not about conquest, but sacrifice.
God is not a collective of taking, but a community of giving, self-giving in freedom.
In the words of Karl Barth, God is the One who loves in freedom. God is Love in freedom.
So, in the community that is God, there is sameness and difference.
You know, if everything is the same without difference, then I am you, and you are me, and we are God, just one enormous self-centered person with nothing left to love.
You know, if everything was difference, with no communion, we’d each just bite and devour the other until only one was left with nothing left to love. Satan tempts unity to uniformity and diversity to division so there’d be nothing left to love (no one left to bleed for . . . no one left to love).
But when we love the way God designed, uniformity is not a temptation and diversity is no longer a threat, for our differences are no longer liabilities, but invitations to love. It’s our differences that allow us to give and receive.
God makes you an individual
so that you can give yourself away,
so that you can love, and we can only love in freedom.
If you’ve been around church awhile, you know that sometimes church really hurts. And yet, if Scripture is true–which I really think it is, and if Jesus tells the truth–and I think He really is the Truth, then what Jesus prayed is true. And that means if you really want to change the world…don’t try to be like someone else. Be the unique individual that God has made you to be. And then, the most powerful thing you can do is…find somebody that’s different than you and love them.
If they love you in return, well then I think the world will look and say, ‘Oh, is that what God is like? That’s what He’s like!’ Now doing that can be incredibly hard, and personally I don’t think we have the strength for it. Scripture says, ‘We love because He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). So you see, our best shot at making that happen together is to spend time with the One who first loved us.
And when you believe the love that God has for you…well that Love begins to fill you up and then you begin to dance and that dance is Love. And other people begin to dance. And then the world can say, “Oh, that’s what He’s like! I’d like in on that dance!” It’s called the Kingdom of Heaven.” -P.H.
This devotional was prepared by Peter’s assistant, Kimberly Weynen. It is primarily a compilation of excerpts from the sermon “That The World May Know.” If you’d like, you can watch, listen to, or read the full sermon here: That The World May Know