One in the Spirit – Focus Scripture: John 17:11
What does it mean to have unity? The word unity in this context derives from the Greek work eis and means one. Other meanings attached to the word are the same or one another. In today’s scripture, Jesus prayed to God for unity: “so that they may be one, as we are one.”
Does unity here mean that the disciples are to be the first? Or does it say the disciples are to be like one another? This matter, of course, is open to interpretation. But no matter how one translates the word, we are not talking about a casual, fleeting relationship. We are talking about an abiding oneness that is essential to continuing the mission of Jesus, who is now departing the world.
How do we measure up as modern-day disciples? I submit to you that we fall short in countless ways, some of which have an impact on our children. What if our vision were unified? Many examples come to mind; I will relate only one.
Some years ago, I worked in a school district that was changing racially, economically, and socially. Part of the demographic shift was due to the gentrification of urban communities in the city. Real estate properties that used to house low-income residents had been demolished to make room for six-figure condos and townhomes for the rich. The former residents of those low-income housing projects were then geographically displaced.
When displaced people arrived in their new communities, they were not welcomed with open arms. In fact, many of them felt like exiles and found it hard to sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land. These low-income newcomers were confronted with the usual things that divide the oppressors from the oppressed. Not only that; these groups were not talking to each other about their similarities and differences, their hopes and their dreams, and with communication at an impasse, mistrust was the sentiment of the day.
In the process, the rich were pitted against the poor, the white against the other, and the language majority against the language minority. Children, once again, were affected when this mistrust carried over into the school system. I saw some of these children sink into hopelessness, anger, and even despair that manifested in cynicism, apathy, and sometimes violence. And where there was no hope, the children languished.
In this, one of his last earthly prayers, Jesus specifically asked God to protect the unity of his followers and to guard them against the division. They were told to go into the world and be witnesses. And they were told that the world would be hostile to their message. Unfortunately, the world is still opposed to the message. There is still much work to do, but without unity, the work is not likely to get accomplished. We will have to embrace unity if we profess to be the church universal. Unity is possible only to the extent that we are one with each other. What if we were united as one in the spirit of love?
Merciful God, please help us to be one in the Spirit. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.