John 17:20-23 - (Jesus said) "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. The glory that you have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me."
John 17 always affects me strongly. It's Jesus' last prayer for His disciples before His arrest and death, and again and again He repeats His concern that we should all be one. He even compares this oneness to the oneness of the Trinity. He is urgent about this oneness. It really matters to Him.
What exactly is this oneness supposed to look like? Some people think of it in terms of organization: "Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have denominations anymore, but instead we had one single Christian church that was totally unified?" If that's the standard, Jesus' prayer has failed dismally. Others think of it in terms of opinion: that all Christians should speak with one voice on all issues, doctrinal or political. We fail at this, too.
So what was Jesus thinking of? I don't know, but I notice that He seems to link it very closely with love. Love comes up again and again in this prayer. Jesus says that our oneness will show the world that God sent Him and loved us even as He loved Christ. He asks that the Father's love for Jesus may be in us, too.
If I look at our oneness in terms of love, I am comforted. We get so many things wrong, but this is one thing we sometimes get right. I've seen it in action, and I bet you have, too.
Many years ago, a refugee mother came to America with three children—one eighteen years old, one twelve, and one just five. Days later the mother died in the hospital, leaving her children all alone in a strange country. The city, the county, and the refugee resettlement agency were all fighting over her body, everyone trying to avoid the cost of burying her in a pauper's grave.
Someone noticed on her paperwork that she had been baptized in the Philippines, so they called our church. When our pastor heard what was going on, he became angry. "She is ours," he said. "We will handle the burial—you all go away."
The Lutheran church claimed her body and cared for the orphans. A Christian funeral home director gave us a discounted price. The funeral was beautiful—choral singing, flowers, and photos the children could send to relatives in Vietnam to show that everything had been done respectfully and honorably. The church paid for everything. Two or three Christian families of other denominations stepped forward to foster the children. (I think they were mostly Baptist.) And the children grew up and did well after such a sad beginning.
Jesus' prayer is still unanswered in so many ways. But when it comes to the oneness of love, we sometimes get it right—by the grace and mercy of God.
THE PRAYER: Dear Father, help us to love one another and to become one as Jesus prayed. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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