“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23).
There aren’t many things I value more than spending time with people I care about. Maybe you feel the same way, that the most meaningful times in life are spent with people who love you. The world has a way of snatching up all our time, distracting us with its many demands and stressful situations. We reach moments, like in the holiday season, when we’re forced to take some time off and think about what matters. As we reach this holiday season, my prayer for you is that you are able to set aside worries and cares and focus on the Lord, and also on the people in your life. To think about who loves you, who you love, and how you can show them. It’s not just my prayer for you, it’s Jesus’ prayer also.
In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father on behalf of his disciples, but he also prays for those who will believe in him through their message. People like you and me. There are many important things in Jesus’ prayer for us, but in this closing section, he prays that we will be one, in him, just as he is in the Father. It’s a prayer for unity, but he doesn’t mean going to church together. He is talking about the essential unity of love that is shared between him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. In the very nature of God—in His essential being—there is love. Love is the defining characteristic of God, and we see it actively displayed in the interaction between the members of the trinity. But it doesn’t stop there—it’s not just who he is, it’s what he wants for us too. We were created to join in that love, to become part of what Jesus and the Father share between them. Jesus came to make it possible for us to share in that love. We were created to be in Christ and in the Father.
Being “in” God is a confusing idea for people in our time, because we are individualists. We think of our hopes and dreams in terms of what we can achieve as individuals. We think of our identity as what we do for a living, or our accomplishments. The idea of an identity that is found in a membership is somewhat foreign to us, but it wasn’t in Jesus’ time. The people of his time, and within his culture, naturally identified with some group. Either their ethnic group, or their community, or their families. They were “in” or “of” those groups, and this is how they thought of themselves. This is also how they experienced love and acceptance. When Jesus prays that we would be in him, just as he is in the Father, he is praying for a new association for all who believe in him and receive eternal life. We not only become members of a family, we get everything that it means to be part of it. And that includes the endless, transforming love of God—the same love that is between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are drawn into that, and are changed by it increasingly.
The love we find in him is something we share with each other. This is the reason why Jesus says his followers are identified by their love for one another; the love we receive from him is part of who we are, as his children. It connects us not only to Jesus, but to others who follow him. And that same love is what we offer to the world, to draw them into a relationship with Christ also. That’s what Jesus is praying about—that we would find our way to that love, and then show it to the world.
The world around us doesn’t have that kind of love. It offers superficial affection—some loyalty and compassion, but limited by what we get in return. God’s love isn’t just what he does, it’s who he is. His love is unconditional. As his followers, it must be who we are also. We get there by resting in him, by following Jesus and knowing him. We then offer that love from the overflow in our own lives. To find our way to it, though, we need to break free of distractions and stress. We must rest in the Lord, seek him and walk with him. We need to spend time with the people we care about. It’s hard, in the busyness of life.
You were made to share in his love. It was important enough for Jesus to come to earth and die for you, to draw you into the love he shares with the Father. Let’s share with the people in our lives, as we give thanks this coming week, and as we draw near to the celebration of the Lord’s birth.