Why Would He Tell Us That?
Jesus said a lot of interesting things. Consider......
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.(John 17:17-23, NIV)
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13, NIV)
I think it's safe to say that Jesus placed a lot of emphasis on unity. And it looks like they had a lot of it, then. Sure, Judas Iscariot was lurking about for his twisted part, but the guys seemed to pretty well rally around Jesus. And He was really about all they had.
They weren't terribly popular in the synagogues; Jesus' gospel was at odds with the Pharisees. And the Pharisees had the theology thing down pat; at least what had been passed down to them. They were even unified, apparently, in what they were about. But Jesus didn't point to them as stunning examples of unity.
I'm thinking He had in mind the sort of unity that rises up in people whose prime focus is on Jesus. And that thought has driven some of the comments I've tossed around lately in Blogdom, which were generally met with either yawns, or scorn, or some sort of objection. Well, I don't care about that.
But I do think we're missing something.
Jesus' admonitions to be one .. to be united .. seem to have come in preparation for leaving .. to prepare His disciples to carry on without His physical presence. And the preparing seems to extend through the ages, to us (I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one...) So I'm thinking Jesus knew that we needed to be one, to be united around Him, even now, and He apparently knew it would not be "natural" for us to do that!
It's almost as if we don't WANT TO BE ONE! Or if we ARE going to do it, Buster, you'd better do it MY WAY.
But He told us to be united, anyway!
There seem to be earnest, serious, qualified scholars on both sides of most controversies. Do you suppose Jesus knew that would be the case? Yet He told us the issue was unity!
I believe the variety of Christian denominations was sanctioned by God to cast as wide a net as possible to give every variety of mankind the chance to come to faith in Jesus. I think that's because there are so many different sorts of people ... people who, in the natural, would be interested in this or that sort of music, worship, prayer, study, fellowship, etc. And we've got enough forms of church to appeal to'em all.
I think Jesus knew how people would be. And He prayed for our unity!
I think He knew that serious scholars would rise up to teach Open Communion, Closed Communion, Semi-Open Communion, and every other kind there might be. Do you suppose Jesus knew that, too? I think He did. But He said let us be one, as He and His father were one!
I think He knew that some serious scholars would see the five points of Calvinism as Biblical, and that others would not. Do you suppose He knew that? Yet He prayed for us to be one.
Do you supposed Jesus' prayer for us to be united as one, in Him, were contingent on the perfection of our recognition of the entire Bible? No, I seriously doubt He'd rely on our intelligence, particularly since His favorite faith seems to have been that of children.
Do you supposed He knew how people would get when they differ with others in this point or that point of their faith? I'm betting He did. Yet He prayed we would be one!
I'm betting it's possible for us to be united in oneness, just as He prayed, despite our differences in personal views on all this stuff we're arguing about. If we want to.
I think that's the rub.
I keep going back to the time He was walking around. Those fishermen weren't Greek Scholars, I don't think, but He told them they needed unity. So, I'm thinking again, that the unity was simply focused on Him.
And, against a backdrop of thousands of learned scholars today, who hold to different views on this or that point of doctrine (and you know I'm not talking about the essentials of salvation here... so don't bring THAT up...), who see many points of scripture in a different light, He tells us 2,000 years later, to have unity. He prayed that we'd be one. And we do the kind of bloodletting I've seen here and there, lately.
How disappointed in us, He must be. And the tragic part is that it must be doable, or He wouldn't have said what He did!
One really, really sad aspect of this is that, in the microcosm, we see so much of that sort of unity. Our church has had, occasionally, joint services with Kingwood Assembly of God. And they are such sweet and uplifting times, too! I've also been, as I've said before, a worshiper in everything from Anglican Cathedrals in London and Oakington, England, to Pentecostal Union Churches in Pskov, Russia and Bauska & Riga, Latvia; to Baptist Churches from the Caribbean to Germany. And in each case, there was sweet fellowship. And unity.
Then there's Mike Shaw, my pastor, and I, who differ on Calvinism. We get along extremely well, primarily because, in his own words "When I look at you, I don't see a Calvinist. I see a brother in Christ".
I wish that brotherhood spilled over into all areas of our lives.