“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 readers 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, people see what God is like. If church members were asked to describe God, how often would the words they used reflect the person they meet in the Gospel story? How often would the 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 the 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, Christians see what Jesus is like. If they were asked to describe Jesus, how often would the 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 the 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 Christians think about what those words about unity between he and the Father mean for the understanding of God?
The second unity tells about the relationship with Jesus and the Father. “May they also be in us,” says Jesus in Chapter 17 Verse 21.
If Christians were asked to describe their relationship with God, how often would they say that God was in them? If they did so they would probably feel that they were guilty of spiritual pride, they would probably feel that people might think them 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 Christians, but they 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 them should be instantly eliminated by the sense that they are in God. What a difference it should make to Christian people that they are people who live in his presence. There is a sense of both fear and reassurance, fear at the responsibility that Jesus’ words bring, and reassurance at the way every moment of life can look different because of this unity.
“May they also be in us,” have Christians thought about what these words about unity between God and his should mean for them?
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 Christians were asked about how they saw each other? Wouldn’t some of them come from traditions that said other churches were not churches? Wouldn’t some of them come from traditions that said that others were not Christians? Unity is not possible without equality.
If Christians were asked if they were one with each other as Jesus prayed, wouldn’t they have to confess their failure? Wouldn’t they have to confess that not only do thet not enjoy unity with those of other churches, they do not even enjoy unity within their own church? Wouldn’t they have to confess that their love for God did not extend to love for their neighbour?
Unity cannot be in only one direction, if church members 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 all need to confess pride, stubbornness, lack of charity, plain failure to be the sort of people for whom Jesus had hoped.
“That they may be one, as we are one.” Is there thought about what unity among Jesus’ disciples should mean?
Three unities: between Jesus and his Father: between God and his people; among God’s people. Each of those unities asks about people’s lives as Christians.