September Reflection

"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."  

John 17:20–26

During the presidential primaries in April 2016, conservative columnist Arthur Brooks wrote:  “Watch and listen to politically polarized commentary today, and you will see that it is more contemptuous than angry, overflowing with sneering, mockery, and disgust.  Studies on the subject have shown that, whereas simple anger is characterized by short-term attack responses but long-term reconciliation, contempt is characterized by rejection and social exclusion in both the short-term and the long-term.” (New York Times, 4/10/16).

Contempt, and not just anger, flowered in Charlottesville. Jesus wants the church to be a startling answer to that contempt.  He prays that we “…may become perfectly one, so that the world [think, friends, neighbors, enemies, colleagues, political pundits, social psychologists, people on the left and the right] may know that you sent me.”  

Yes, we must speak up for what is just and true.  Yes, we must wrestle with each other over how best to love our neighbors as ourselves.  But that is not enough. We must be, in how we conduct ourselves with each other, a living alternative to contempt.  We must be sociologically inexplicable, and for that reason a winsome invitation to our angry and cynical neighbors to take a serious look at the person we call Lord.

Notice one quality in the harmony for which Jesus prays.  He wants us to all “to be one, as[he and the Father] are one.”   Think of how the Father, Son, and Spirit continually defer to and honor one another.  Now imagine an election campaign, or an international summit on peace in Syria, or a church family, in which all the parties do likewise: in which people “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10)—in which the only “competition” is over who can listen more carefully, who can speak more graciously to and about the other, and who can better promote the legitimate interests of the other.  No flattery, no manipulation, no sneering; simply, and always, good will.  This is how the Trinity “does” community.  It is how Jesus prays we will, even when we despise each other’s politics—all so that our neighbors will savor in us a foretaste of heaven.

Prayer

  • Pray that churches, beginning with yours, will awaken to the enormous missional opportunity to be found, given the present climate, in church harmony.
  • Pray that the Spirit will make our churches safe places—so filled with the love of the Father and the Son that we can wrestle with each other over politics.

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