"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. 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 17:21-23
Jesus prayed that prayer for us. Let me say that again. Jesus prayed that prayer for us. He asked God to make us one in him. To unite us, so he could use us as a city on a hill, a light in the world of darkness, salt in a life of weak flavor, family in a species of broken relationships.
He prayed that we would be completely one. Other translations read perfectly one, perfected in unity, and brought to complete unity.
But when we look around, we know are clearly not completely unified. Did God decide not to answer his own prayer? If so, surely our prayers our doomed.
Of course not. Through his death and resurrection, Christ provided the answer to his own prayer. There is a constant paradox in the Christian life: the already/not yet. We are already justified in Christ, but not yet sanctified. We already have new life in him, but are not yet resurrected and glorified. We are already one in Christ, but not yet a perfectly unified family.
And we won’t be in this life. Because we’re human. It’s impossible to always be one when our tendency is to make ourselves the only one. But, as with many of the other not yets, God uses the reality of the already to push us toward the not yet. He desires for us to ache and claw and strive to be one, even while we are not yet one. God wants us to act like family, because that's what we are.
So we pray for oneness, for there to be unity in our churches and in the global Church. We pray that He would break down the walls that we've built– cultural differences, theological disputes, bitterness, and preferences. We pray for our eyes to be opened to see the needs, joys, and potential of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
But we don't want to just see our family. We want to engage them with love. We can't be afraid to step out and make amends or to begin a new friendship. We know sometimes we are going to feel alone. We know our efforts can be misinterpreted, ignored, or scoffed at. But our prayer is that God would help us endure, with courage and peace, knowing He is calling us to this oneness, and has already done the work of ultimately binding us together in Him.
Jon Foreman writes, “We struggle better than we salsa. The habit of the fight seems easy to explain: Dominance is easier to achieve than friendship; consumption is easier than love; and objectification is easier than empathy… all too often I’m distracted by the fight: sidelined by the little battles along the way.”
We are so easily distracted; we so often trade the eternal for the temporal. Love isn’t about agreeing with everything someone says. It’s not about a relationship status or mutual friends. Love isn’t a feeling or emotion. It’s a choice, a commitment, a change.
Jesus told us to love the poor, the lost, the sick, and the disenfranchised. But also he said the world is going to know we belong to him because we love one another. That should change everything about how we interact with others in the Church. In Christ, love is the essence of family. The Church is family.
"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We get some excellent descriptions of love throughout the Bible. Paul’s now famous lines in 1 Corinthians 13 are a good place to start. Love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy, isn’t selfish or egotistical, rejoices in truth, and more. But that's not all. The pages of Scripture practically leak love. Here are a few other passages that remind us how to love our Family:
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?"
–1 John 3:16-17
"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
"And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'"
– Matthew 22:37-28
God is love (1 John 4:7-10). Without His love for us, we wouldn’t have a clue as to what it means to love. But He proved His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We know we fail at loving like He does, but we also know He gives us the inspiration and ability to love. We do love Him, even though we fail. And we want to love one another, even though we fail.
Let us love with abandon, without boundaries or conditions. Let us not just say we love, but let us show love to our brothers and sisters with our actions and our lives. Let us love those in the world, but let us also love one another with a ferocity that makes the world take notice. Let's ask God to teach us to love like He loves-- with the sacrificial, deep, eternal love that He lavishes so freely on us.
(Post adapted with permission from related posts on LauraCoulterwrites.com.)