Recently I butted heads with a dear friend. We are alike in our passion for serving Jesus but think and operate very differently. Usually we enjoy our different personalities. This was not one of those times.
There were tears and frustrations and big feelings. But we both are committed to unity. We also love each other and love the Lord even more. So we spoke forgiveness and reconciliation to each other in a hard conversation.
The other night her teenage daughter was perched at my kitchen counter. She teased me and asked if I was still mad at her mom. Capitalizing on this teachable moment, I emphasized that her mom and I love each other and that it is impossible to do life closely with anyone and never have conflict.
Her eyes sparkled mischievously as she quipped, “Unless you were Jesus.”
I reminded her that even Jesus fielded his fair share of conflict. But none of it stemmed from his actions … it was other people instigating the conflict. She thought for a moment and followed with, “Well then unless you were both Jesus.”
This child is precocious. And I adore her.
Actually, she was on to something. Not in the sense that there are two of Jesus (we try to stick with sound theology with our children around here) but in the truth that you can’t have perfect unity unless all the parties are God.
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Mark 12:29
The Father, Son, and Spirit are truly one. They exist in perfect, seamless unity. And perhaps part of the stumbling block we experience in picturing the perfect oneness of God is that it is beyond our comprehension to be in perfect unity with anyone.
Every human connection on earth is plagued by the wages of sin. (Romans 3:23) And because of our sin, we experience cracks, fissures, and outright canyons in our relationships. All of them.
Consider those you are closest to … spouses, close friends, siblings, and children. Are any of those relationships without conflict? Of course not.
Most of us understand that imperfect people do not form perfect relationships. And we accept that occasional or constant conflict is inevitable. Yet it’s hard to fathom the inverse. Because we have no earthly frame of reference for absolute oneness.
But God is not bound by the temporal and carnal consequences of our broken world. He is holy. He knows no discord. He sins not. He is perfect love. He is perfect peace. And thus God can exist as three persons in seamless, glorious, perfect unity.
One of my favorite Bible passages is found in John 17. Jesus is about to go to the garden where he will be arrested and subsequently crucified. Deep in prayer with His father, in verse 20 he shifts from praying for his disciples to praying for all believers.
“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.” John 17:20-23
This passage shows Jesus’s heart for “the ones who will believe in me through their word.” In other words, he is praying for us … the believers who came to faith through the spreading of the Gospel after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
He speaks to his oneness with the Father. And notice his prayer is that we experience unity as well. Three times He speaks to his desire for us to be one. He wants us to be as unified with Him and with each other as he is with the Father – perfectly one. Imagine that.
What hope. What a challenge. What a witness to the world of the love of Christ.
The oneness of God found in the persons of the Father, Son, and Spirit is the perfect standard of unity. I can barely comprehend it. Yet I hold fast to the hope and promise that because of Jesus, through His strength and in His power, I can pursue unity … even in this broken world.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11