20 ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you 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.’ (John 17.20-21, New International Version, NIV, 2011)
Jesus prayed that those persons who “believe in me” after hearing the apostolic message from Jesus’ original twelve disciples (“their message”) “may be one”. This being “one” speaks to a unity that is not less but is more than a unity based on external factors. Jesus is praying that his followers would have a oneness that is grounded in the oneness that Jesus has with his Father, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” Further, the oneness that Jesus’ followers have through believing in him is a unity that is to be experienced and lived out “so that the world may believe” that the Father have sent Jesus.
How are we to experience and live out being “one”? Three basic ways are:
- We need to repent for our prejudices and preferences that divide and not bring together the followers of Jesus. Too often our words and actions are means of criticism of other believers; they drive away other Christians. I am not referring to upholding biblical truth and the apostolic testimony that has been held by most Christians during all times in all places. Yet even this truth is to be spoken and lived out in love so that our oneness is a lived reality.
- We must come to the cross. We come to the cross of Christ as sinners, we receive forgiveness for our sins and are reconciled to the Father and to one another as God’s children (Romans 8.14-16). So, we come together, not as Presbyterians or Pentecostals, conservative or progressive, white or indigenous, male or female, young or old, but as the people of God ransomed and redeemed through the work of the cross of Jesus.
- We are to open our lives to the Holy Spirit and spiritual renewal. Someone has said, “Christian unity…was inaugurated on the cross, is given by God and wrought by the Spirit in the hearts of people. History teaches us that when revival comes, the Spirit takes virtually no notice of denominational labels….” As we open our lives to the Holy Spirit we are brought into the presence of Jesus and the Father (Ephesians 2.6); we come closer to God and we come closer to one another.
Yesterday close to a hundred of us gathered for worship. Coming from different racial, ethnic, and demographic backgrounds we came together as followers of Jesus. There was no delusion that our coming together reflected the perfect “oneness” Jesus prayed for. Yet as we praised the Name of the Lord, repented of prejudices and preferences, and called upon the Spirit to enliven us to the love of the Father, we drew closer to the cross and to one another.
The Rev Dr Rodger McEachern
Callingwood Road Presbyterian Church