Scripture: John 17:18-26 CEB
We learn from this passage, this prayer, that unity is of utmost importance to Jesus. As His followers, we are invited into the unity Jesus experiences with His Father. From within this relationship, we can then build unity with one another. Of course, this is easier said than done. Pursuing unity requires a deep awareness and a willingness to strive for this goal. We must be willing to get our hands dirty and work hard for it. So, today would you keep an open mind, and let’s think about unity together. What does unity mean to you?
Perhaps we might think first about what unity is not. The opposite of unity is separateness, exclusion, polarization. Have you noticed the contention that is happening on so many levels in our community, our nation, and our world? The news tells the same story over and over of division in our society between races, political parties, and along socio-economic lines. The Franciscan priest and author Richard Rohr speaks about what he calls the “small self.” He writes that the chosen stance of the small self is separateness. Separateness makes it hard to live in unity and love with God in His diverse manifestations. The small self must take one side or the other to feel secure. People are either for me or against me, totally right or totally wrong. It’s my group’s opinion against your group’s opinion. Rohr concludes that these are all dualistic formulations and they do not foster the unity that we are called to by Jesus. Jesus prayed in John 17:22 and 23, “I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them, and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one.”
Jesus gave His glory to us because we are God’s children. Our nature and purpose in life comes from who we are. As persons, we are God’s images, meant to resemble Him. We are called to join with God in perfect unity. The division goes against this purpose. So, in His prayer, Jesus invites us to fulfill God’s plan by building unity during our earthly life.
So, how can we build unity in this world? We can do it by first entering into an intimate relationship with Jesus. Jesus promises to stay with us and keep us together. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus promises, “I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” Because we have received His love, we can begin to build unity with others. In John 17:26, Jesus also says, “Your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them. We have joined in the holy relationship Jesus has with His Father. Because our lives are now caught up with the life of God, our eyes can see what He sees and wants what He wants. It is only natural that we would then be open to unity, not only with God but also with one another.
Let me share with you a story of two people whose hearts responded to the call away from divisiveness and toward unity.
There was a woman who worked in a meat distribution factory. One day, when she finished her work, she went into the meat freezer to inspect something. In a moment of misfortune, the door closed, and she was locked inside alone. Although she screamed and knocked with all her might, her cries went unheard. Most of the workers had already gone. Outside the cold room, it was impossible to hear what was going on inside. Five hours later, when she was on the verge of death, the factory’s security guard eventually opened the door, and the woman was miraculously saved from dying that day. When she later asked the security guard why he stepped out of his usual work routine to come and open the freezer door, he explained, “I’ve worked in this factory for 35 years. Hundreds of workers come in and out every day. Many treat me as if I was invisible. But you are one of the few who greet me every morning and say goodbye to me every night when you leave after work. I look forward to your ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ every day because they remind me that I am someone. Today, as you reported for work like all other days, you greeted me in your simple manner, ‘Hello.’ But this evening, after working hours, I realized that I had not heard your normal, “Bye, see you tomorrow.” By not hearing your farewell today, I knew that something must be wrong. That’s why I searched everywhere for you.” This woman had built a respectful and kindly relationship with that security guard, just by greeting him every day. He then reciprocated that kindness and saved her life.
We too will make an impact on others’ lives when we show humility, respect, acceptance, kindness, care, and compassion. We must intentionally take care of one another and constantly pursue unity in this world. We can start by doing simple things, like greeting one another. We mindfully enter into a process that cultivates mutual respect, kindness, and care and builds the unity Jesus is teaching us in this Scripture. We need this now more than ever.
Let’s give glory to God by sharing God’s love in the face of hard times.
Are you willing to do it?