August 01, 2011
That they may be one...
Jesus prayed for His disciples (which includes those who would believe the testimony of the disciples - i.e. us): “...that they may be one... just as We are one; I in them, and You [God the Father] 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 17:22b,23)
The German philosopher Schopenhauer compared the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winter’s night. He said, “The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth’s winter eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness.”
God creates us with a desire for oneness. Oneness with each other and with God. Yet we struggle with intimacy. Jesus prayed “that they may be one” in part because our natural tendency is to move away from the depth of oneness that we were created for.
There is a story of a little boy who entered a Sunday school contest in reciting Bible verses. This little boy happened to be a cripple, a hunchback, who could hardly walk across the stage to recite the verse he had memorized. As he started to hobble across the stage as best he could, with his terribly humped back, an older boy who had come in off the street thoughtlessly cried out, “Hey, crip, take the pack off your back!’ The little boy broke down in tears, and couldn’t go on. A man came up out of the audience and stood beside him. He said, “I don’t know what kind of a person would make fun of a little crippled boy, but I want to tell you who this boy is. He’s my son, and he’s got more courage than any of you! And I’m proud of him, because he’s mine!” And he picked him up in his harms and walked off the stage.
It makes sense to us that God should love Jesus. But us? Hunchbacked, crippled, broken, beaten? God declaring that we are His, loved by Him, and carried through life? And yet, God does love us individually with the depth of love that He loves His Son. Astounding!
Years ago the Atlantic Monthly told about superstar tenors Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti performing together in Los Angeles. The reporter tried to press the issue of competitiveness between the three men. “You have to put all your concentration into opening your heart to the music,” Domingo said. “You can’t be rivals when you’re together making music.”
The depth of oneness that Jesus prays for can never be realized or experienced by our efforts. The source of “oneness” is not in treaties, organizations, mergers, alliances, contracts, associations, church structures, human laws, or anything else we might dream up. The source of “oneness” is God, reaching to us and loving us through Jesus, that in Him we might be one.
The more we open our hearts to God and allow ourselves to overwhelmed by His love the greater the depth of our oneness with each other.
During the construction of Emerson Hall at Harvard University, President Charles Elliot invited psychologist and philosopher William James to suggest a suitable inscription for the stone lintel over the doors of the new home of the philosophy department.
After some reflection, James sent Elliot a line from the Greek Philosopher Protagoras: “Man is the measure of all things.”
James never heard back from Elliot, so his curiosity was piqued when he spotted artisans working on the scaffold hidden by a canvas. One morning the scaffold and canvas were gone. The inscription? “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4)
Between these two lines lies the great distance between the God-centered and the human-centered points of view. And, one huge reason why we struggle so greatly in our relationships: Self-centered pride.
Opening our hearts to God means letting go of ourselves. Our lives must be intentionally focused on growing deeper in our relationship with God, listening, obeying, worshipping, serving, and surrendering to Him for His glory and praise - not ours. Put God first and every relationship we are in will change.
It has been said that God’s divine strategy is to make all Christians share one life in one great family and so to make the world, starving for meaningful personal relationships, simply drool with desire. When God’s “oneness” flows through us, demonstrating what God can do in and through crippled people, the world will know that Jesus really is from God and the only way from man to God.
May we learn to open ourselves to God
that the world may