“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one….” John 17:22-23
We are living in times that could be characterized by the term, “disunity.” That characterization is perhaps too generous, for all around us division, strife, and extremism are tearing our society apart. From the national, racial, and political spheres over to the spheres of faith and even family, disunity and relational destruction seem to be the trends.
In the midst of the ripping and tearing of the fabric of our society we encounter the words of Jesus quoted above, part of His so-called “High-priestly Prayer.” This prayer, recorded from the Garden immediately before His betrayal, is centered on the idea of oneness. Certainly, part of this prayer is for the unity of His followers. Yet the foundation for that interpersonal level of unity is much deeper, for He is appealing to the fact that His true followers are already one with Himself and with the Father.
Look at this excerpt from this prayer of Jesus, from John 17:20-23
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Our God desires to bring His true followers into a profound oneness with Himself. Look at how Jesus describes it in His final prayer with His disciples. “…that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us” (emphasis added). The quality of oneness between His followers and Himself is the oneness between the Father and the Son. He is praying that we will be one with the Father and Son as they are one with each other.
Yes, the oneness our God desires between Himself and us is the same oneness that He has with Jesus Christ within the Godhead. “…so that they may be one, as we are one,I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one….” Such oneness comes to us because the Father is present in the Son, and the Son is present in us by His Holy Spirit. The Greek term translated as “one” in these verses emphasizes no division and no dissension.
Is this the way in which we view our relationship with our God? Do we understand the life-altering truth that He has made Himself one with us? Here is revealed for us a major tenet of the new covenant – our God has invited us into His life, into Himself. To make this so, He has placed within us His Holy Spirit.
So often, our God is perceived as the God “up there,” external to us, separated from us. Such thinking is from the old covenant; it serves to distance us from our God in our thinking. It robs us of the depth of relationship we could be having with Him. It is easy to think that the purpose of our God is to help us muddle through “down here” until we get “up there” with Him. This thinking makes the Christian life about sin abatement and behavior management. If we keep trying, keep learning more facts, keep applying more principles, we will eventually come to be pleasing to our God.
Such old covenant thinking cannot take us to oneness with our God. To understand the oneness our God wants with us would be transformational for us. How could we be invested so many of the lesser things and issues of the world when our God is inviting us into deep union with Himself? Into the oneness the Godhead enjoys between Themselves. This is a truth that should move us to deep longing for our God, a deep commitment to pursue this oneness with all we are and all we possess.
In another way, however, the oneness for which Jesus prayed threatens us at a visceral level. We somehow know that to enter that level of relationship with our God would leave us overwhelmed and undone. Such intimacy with Him would purify us not just from some of our behaviors, but from our self-determination and self-focus. It would confront our divided, sacred-mixed-with-secular habit of living. It would reorganize our thinking and living and disrupt our systems of religiosity and image management. It would end our attempts to control the “God-dynamic” in our lives.
And it would transform us so deeply and so wonderfully that our living will never be the same. It will never again be a lesser kind of life, for we will be in union with, be one with the very God. We cannot begin to imagine what that life here on earth would be like. We can only describe it in terms of…heaven.