20 May 2010John 17:20-26
"The glory that you have given me I have given them, so they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (v.22-23)
This passage speaks a great deal about 'being one'. Jesus likens
the oneness, the unity that exists between himself and God, to the
oneness that he hopes and prays will characterise the relationship
amongst his followers. But we know that from the very earliest
times there have been divisions and disagreements between the
followers of Jesus. Among those first disciples there was
squabbling about status (eg Mark
10:38-45). As the new 'Jesus movement' spread out around the
Mediterranean area there were huge disputes between Jews who
followed Jesus and non-Jews (Gentiles) (eg Acts
15). The Jews tried to make the Gentiles subscribe to Jewish
practice before they could become Christians. Much of Paul's
letters deals with this problem.
Down the ages Christians have disagreed about things to such an extent that they have sometimes even killed each other for holding different opinions. This has led to the Church being composed of many parts. There are now numerous denominations and groups who hold slightly differing views about Jesus, about the Communion service, about whether preaching is more important than liturgy and ritual, or vice versa. Some Christian groups do not even recognise others as being 'true Christians'.
Today's passage is often used as a plea for Christians to work together, and the really important part speaks of working together and being in fellowship with one another not just for its own sake, but "that the world may believe". Christian disunity can so often be used by others to discredit the faith. John Wesley commented that we may not always agree with one another, but we should always love and work with one another.
Recently, the president of the Methodist Conference got a lot of media coverage by suggesting to the Church of England General Synod that the Methodist Church was prepared to go out of existence if that would aid the mission of the Church. What do you think of that?
Some Roman Catholics see ecumenism (promoting unity among Christian denominations) resulting in Churches coming back into the Catholic Church. How could the gifts and insights of various Churches be received as gifts if gradually all Churches came closer together?