Sunday, June 11, 2017

“That They All May Be One”

Jesus' prayer in John 17 is an urgent plea that we all might be one as he and the Father were one.  Does that mean the “same?”  Does it mean that we should all dress alike, look alike, think alike, believe alike?  Is that what being “one” means?  Is that what Jesus is really praying for?  Does he mean as Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians:  “There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female, for you are all one person in Christ Jesus.”   That doesn’t compute.  All people are not “in Christ Jesus” (whatever that means—and it means different things to different people).  A male and a female are different physiologically.  How can Paul even suggest that they are one, if “one” means the “same?”  The same is true for the Jew and the Greek, the slave and the free (in the context of Paul’s society)—there was a wide distinction  and division between them.  How about the contemporary rich and poor, the Republican and Democrat, the Catholic and Protestant—and I could go on and on.  How can they be one—especially if one means the “same?”

Some years ago, the “Unity Candle” came into vogue in the marriage service.  In some weddings, when the bride and the groom lit the unity candle to symbolize their union (thus subscribing to the ancient law and the teaching of Jesus—“the two shall become one”) they would snuff out the two single candles representing their individuality.  I strongly opposed this practice.  I’ve been married for a long time now and I can tell you that my wife and I are not “one!”  Our individual ideas, opinions, habits, stubbornness and uniqueness have persisted—we have remained the unique persons we were and still are—and that means we are different—not one and the same!

What did Jesus mean then, when he prayed, “May they all be one?”  It baffles me.  The Apostle Paul struggled with it, too.  In his Letter to the Corinthians he writes:  “A body is not a single organ, but many.  Suppose the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it does belong to the body nonetheless.  Suppose the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it still belongs to the body.  If a body were all eye, how would it hear?  But God has combined the various parts of the body…so that there might be no sense of division in the body, but that all its organs might feel the same concern for one another.  If one organ suffers, they all suffer together  If one flourishes, they all rejoice together.”  Is this how Jesus and the Father are one?  Is this the kind of “oneness” Jesus prayed for us and our world? 

Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean. (Ryunosuke Satoro)
Morro Bay, California

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