God on Monday
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.
John 17.20-26 (vs 20-21).
In the moments leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus lifts his eyes heavenward and prays to his Father. This prayer, found in John 17, is a prayer for oneness that is rooted in, and modelled on, the oneness embodied by the triune God. It provides a valuable source of inspiration for reflection in our current climate.
Whether to do with class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other social identity markers, it is almost impossible to spend time on social media without becoming painfully aware of the fault lines within contemporary culture. These tensions have encroached on our churches, workplaces, and other social spaces. At their root is a seemingly universal inability to navigate diversity well.
Jesus’s prayer is that we would ‘be one’. But how does he envision such unity? Three aspects stand out:
i. Jesus’ prayer is dynamic. It moves from a focus on his mission to a focus on the disciples, then to people who believe because of the disciples, and then to the world. This is not an inward-looking unity, then, but one that faces outwards to include ‘outsiders’.
ii. Jesus’ prayer reminds us that the unity expressed within the Trinity is grounded in agape love – self-giving and sacrificial love – of which the cross is the ultimate example.
iii. Jesus’ prayer highlights the distinctness yet togetherness between the persons of the Trinity. This is a unity that makes space for diversity and honours each person’s unique contribution to the whole.
To embody the unity Jesus envisioned, therefore, we need to consider our attitude towards difference. How can we be more intentional about stepping outside of our comfort zones to engage with ‘outsiders’? How can we create room for diversity in our workplaces and organizations, so that each person’s contribution is honoured and valued?
This kind of unity is costly, at times demanding that we make sacrifices for the sake of others. It is often uncomfortable too. However, such unity ultimately points to the God who created, and cherishes, diversity.
Set aside time this week to reflect on your own posture towards difference using the questions in the reflection.
Lord God, thank you for the gift of unity that we have received from you. Enable us, by the power of your Holy Spirit, to extend this gift towards others. Amen.
Check out the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Difference Course.
Nina Kurlberg, Theology Development Officer at Tearfund.
God on Monday is produced in partnership with the Church of England. The reflections are based on the scriptural readings designated for the coming Sunday in the Church's lectionary. You can sign up to Faith in Business here to receive each God on Monday instalment.
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