In John seventeen Christ prays for His disciples and future generations of followers to be one as He and the Father are one. This seems like such an impossible task to me. Christ prays this knowing that Judas will betray Him, Peter will deny Him, and Thomas will doubt Him. Yet He prays it anyway. He prays it before heading to the cross. It must have been important to Him. In verses twenty and twenty one He prays, " I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."
Jesus wanted us to have the same oneness with each other that He
enjoyed with His Father. Jesus was the Son with whom God was well
pleased. There is no record of Jesus criticizing God the Father or His
plans. Jesus desired to glorify His Father. What about us? Do we want to
glorify Christ and glorify our Heavenly Father by having the same
oneness with each other that they have?
There is far too much criticism within the body of Christ today
for us to be one. We get so caught up in who is doing church right and
who is doing church wrong. We criticize our pastors...they are too
merciful or not merciful enough. Their sermons are too long or too
short. They forgot to give me a hug hello but they always greet the new
people. We criticize our worship leaders. They smile so much it has to
be fake. They are too emotional or not emotional enough. The music was
too loud or not loud enough. We tell other ministry leaders how they can
do their jobs better or worse yet we show them. We accuse each other of
being immature or we accuse each other of being too spiritual. We all
want to be leaders when Christ called us to be followers. When political
issues outside of the church arise we are so concerned with taking a
side that we don't see that it's never really about sides it's about
people...souls in need of a
Savior. We also criticize other churches. They are too liberal or they
are too conservative. They are too traditional and therefore must not
know how to think outside the box. Just as we find ourselves unable to
be one Jesus takes it one step further later on in John seventeen...
" The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they
may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may
be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and
loved them, even as You have loved Me." John 17:22-23. Did you catch
that? Christ wants us to be PERFECTED in unity AND He says that God
loves us even as He loves Jesus. If God loves each one of us the same
way that He loves Jesus...then how does He feel when we criticize our
brother or sister in Christ? How would He feel if we criticized Jesus?
Do we realize that when we criticize our brother or sister in Christ, we
break the heart of God because we are speaking against His child that
I have read John seventeen many times and have not seen it in this
light before. This past week I have found myself in various situations
in which I heard criticism of other brothers and sisters in Christ... or
read it on facebook. It's not like I have never heard it or read it
before. To be honest there have been times in my life that I have been a
participant. So what was different this time? I felt sad. It weighed
me down because one of the people being criticized was someone I love.
Just like everything else in this life, God used it. When I told Him how
I felt He quietly pointed me to John seventeen in order to show me how
He feels. Now, I don't even want to break His heart by listening to it. I
sit here wondering if that is part of the key to unity...not listening
to it. Who wants to speak their mind when there is no audience? The
truth is criticism often disguises itself as just expressing an opinion
showing a concern. We don't realize we have participated until it's
done and we have broken the heart of God. God's Word has the solution
to the problem...no surprise there. It is found in Psalm 141:3 and may
be a good thing to pray each day before getting out of bed. Psalm 141:3,
"Set a guard O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my
lips." And as for me, I plan to add the word ears to that too!
I leave you with these thoughts...what would the church perfected
in unity look like? What impact would it have on our world? Jesus
answered those questions in John with these words, " so that the world
may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me".
When the world sees us loving each other regardless of our
differences,because of our differences, and because God has loved each
one of us as He loves His own Son...they will know that Christ was sent
by God for them as well. Let's make it happen.