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.
What does it mean for Christians to be perfectly one in a world with so many deep divisions among nations, political parties, religions, factions within religions, and factions within each local congregation, etc.? Everywhere we look there are factions, people who have differences of opinion which divide us. Jesus pleads lovingly in this prayer for those who have believed in him, his ministry, and his words of faith and for those followers who come after them and will create a new kind of servant community for which he will give his life on the cross.
According to Frank Meade’s Handbook of Denominations, there are countless hundreds of Christian groups. One could use the similarity that they are all like different capabilities of eyeglasses, simply seeing Jesus in a variety of different ways through differing lenses.
If you wear glasses it is likely that you have had to get your eyes tested after a few years of wearing one pair of glasses. I have had at least four different pairs of glasses over the years, with changes that needed to be made based on my vision changes. The capabilities of our vision change over the years, and likewise adjustments must be made to our lenses.
The capabilities of each denomination or sect of Christianity reach the needs and understandings of each individual believer that is attracted to it. Naturally, these many varieties of views may lead to controversy as each group sees the errors in the other, and in many cases, even denies the Christian character of the other. Through our own personal experiences, we know all too well the truth of such statements.
For that reason, it’s important for us to hear Jesus’ plea, “Holy Father, keep them in your care so that they will be united just as we are.”
Perhaps we need to reflect on what those words mean as they are stressed in one of the early explanations of Christian faith made in the Nicene Creed, “We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”
It is our oneness that Jesus prays for, more than anything else.
Perhaps it would help us toward oneness to recognize that there is no one set of glasses that fits every set of eyes. Perhaps we need to see that Jesus meets the needs of each person in each of the variety of communities that are centered on the love of God shared with humanity through his Son Jesus Christ and helps us grow in our spiritual life in Christ.
Perhaps our oneness depends solely on our belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who came to earth to share our humanity and give us life through forgiveness of sins, washing us clean in God’s loving waters of baptism, and claiming us as His own children. As Jesus prayed that we all may be one, his prayer does not ask that we all worship in the exact same way, or that we totally agree on everything that expresses our individual needs. May we seek and discover ways to “oneness” with all believers in Jesus Christ, God our Father and the Holy Spirit, as we continue to see and understand God in the ways that the Holy Spirit reveals God in Christ to us.
- If oneness was so important for Jesus to pray for those who believe in him, how important should it be for us to seek to be one with all Christians?
- How can we work toward becoming one as Christians of varying denominations?
- Is there anything that prevents you from reaching out to someone who is a Christian of another denomination to share the love of Christ in oneness?
- How does oneness help us in the Christian community?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.