“I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one” John 17:23
Jesus speaks of unity in Saint John Chapter 17, three different sorts of unity. There is the unity between he and the Father; there is the unity between he and the Father and the disciples; and there is the unity among the disciples.
The first unity tells us what the Father is like and what Jesus is like. “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you”, says Jesus in Saint John Chapter 17 Verse 21.
If the Father and Jesus are one, then looking at Jesus, we see what God is like. If we were asked to describe God, how often would the words we use reflect the person we meet in the Gospel story? How often would our picture of God be more like an old man with a long white beard sitting on a great throne than like the man who walked by the Sea of Galilee? How often would our picture of God be more like a terrifying and vengeful judge than like the man who comes to call sinners to be his friend?
If Jesus and the Father are one, then reading about God, we see what Jesus is like. If we were asked to describe Jesus, how often would our picture be more one of a man with long hair and a beard dressed in long robes than one of a man with divine powers? How often would our picture be more one of a man holding lambs and blessing children than one of a man who, seeking justice and righteousness, made a whip of cords and drove the money changers from the Temple?
“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you,” says Jesus in Verse 21; “as we are one” says Jesus in Verse 23. Do we think about what those words about unity between he and the Father mean for our understanding of God?
The second unity tells about our relationship with Jesus and the Father. “May they also be in us,” says Jesus in Chapter 17 Verse 21.
If we were asked to describe our relationship with God, how often would we say that God was in us? If we did so we would probably feel that we were guilty of spiritual pride, we would probably feel that people might think us odd. If there is a unity between God and his people, “I in them,” is how Jesus expresses that unity in Verses 23 and 26.
If there is a unity between God and his people, then not only is he in us, but we are in him. In Verse 22 Jesus says to his Father, “The glory that you have given me I have given them.” Any trace of spiritual pride felt at thinking God was in us should be instantly eliminated by the sense that we are in God. What a difference it should make to us that we are people who live in his presence. There is a sense of both fear and reassurance, fear at the responsibility that Jesus’ words bring to us, and reassurance at the way every moment of our life can look different because of this unity.
“May they also be in us,” have we thought about what these words about unity between God and his should mean for us?
The third unity is that among God’s people, “that they may be one, as we are one”, says Jesus in Verse 22, “that they may become completely one,” he says in Verse 23.
What if other Christians were asked about how they saw us? Wouldn’t some of them come from traditions that said our church was not a church? Wouldn’t some of them come from traditions that said that we were not Christians? Unity is not possible without equality
And if we were asked about how we saw other Christians, what might we answer? If we were asked if we were one with them as Jesus prayed, wouldn’t we have to confess our failure? Wouldn’t we have to confess that not only do we not enjoy unity with those of other churches, we do not even enjoy unity within our own church? Wouldn’t we have to confess that our love for God does not extend to love for our neighbour?
Unity cannot be in only one direction, if we are to fulfil Jesus’ prayer “that they may be one, as we are one,” if we are to achieve his hope “that they may become completely one,” then we all need to confess our pride, our stubbornness, our lack of charity, our plain failure to be the sort of people for whom Jesus had hoped.
“That they may be one, as we are one,” have we thought about what unity among Jesus’ disciples should mean for us?
Three unities: between Jesus and his Father: between God and his people; among God’s people. Each of those unities asks us about our own lives as Christians.