“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
“SO THAT THEY MAY BE ONE”
In John 17, we find Jesus in his farewell prayer, just before he will start down the path that will lead to his crucifixion and resurrection. In verse 11, he prays that his followers “may be one,” and later, in verse 23, “that they may become perfectly one.” This call for unity is particularly poignant for all of us, now, given how terribly divided our country is. After a less-than-peaceful transfer of federal power, which revealed how deeply torn apart we have become, many on either side of the political spectrum are at least now in agreement that we’ve got to do something to come together, if we expect our fragile republic to survive.
That could be the simple message of this devotional: the nation should come together, just like Jesus called his followers to do. But before we start wagging our fingers at the country, it’s time for Christians to take a long, humble look in the mirror, recognizing the divisions and intolerance within our own ranks. How can we call out the nation, when the Church is so perilously divided, as well, largely along the same political lines? Not just our fractured country, but also the The Body of Christ, needs to heal.
Part of the problem has always been that the Church is splintered into so many denominations and other groups. Depending on your definition of denomination, it’s estimated that there are at least 700 of them, representing an astonishing spectrum of beliefs and practices. Such differences should be seen as a sign of strength: that the Christian faith is so rich, bold and strong that there is room for such variety. Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, evangelicals, conservatives, liberals, etc., all finding their niche as part of the body of believers. Different, but one. But, when some are so certain of their own righteousness that they believe that everyone else is wrong, the unity that Jesus called for is gone.
Let’s certainly call on our country to come together. It’s crucial that it do so. But let’s call on Christians to come together, as well, respecting and celebrating our differences, while humbly recognizing all of our limitations. No single group or denomination holds the keys to the Kingdom.