“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, ESV)
There has been much in the news in recent days over the church being united in Christ as part of the coverage related to the hate motivated mass murder in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. While there has been a rightful and questioning look at the vestiges of discrimination remaining in this county, there has also been a large amount of coverage of the response of the people affected and the reopening of the church. As this has happened the media has been forced to focus on the love, forgiveness, and faith of the church and the families as well as the broad sweep of support coming from the other churches and religious leaders of the area. Evident in the midst of recovering from a tragedy stemming from hate, the believers in and around this church have shown a peace and oneness that is beyond comprehension for many.
As Jesus was speaking with the Father He asked even those who believed as a result of the words of His immediate disciples that they might be one just as He and the Father are in each other and one. He prayed that they would be in God such that the world might believe that He was sent by the Father. He prayed that their oneness might even become perfected, so that the world may know that the Father sent Him and loved them even as the Father loved the Son. Jesus said in John 13:24-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, ESV)
There is not one of us that can pretend to know what all of the outcomes might be of the tragedy in Charleston or any other tragic or difficult situation of life. But what we do know is that God won’t waste it. As the love of Christ is shown from these believers and to these believers a stark contrast is being drawn between the responses in other places where tempers rise to riot and its intensity is constantly broadcast throughout the media outlets. And as the world looks seeing both, the question may likely arise asking what makes one group respond differently than the other?
Jesus said that this difference rests in the perfection of oneness that comes from knowing Christ. In the face of what drives the world apart, believers can stand in peace with the peace of God demonstrating the incredible power of God that rests in their unfailing hope and unity of the Spirit. The hurts run very deep and their loved ones will be deeply mourned, but in mourning they mourn not as the world does without hope, but with the hope that comes from God. And while appropriate attention is drawn to the racial divisions that still exist, believers can demonstrate that in Christ there is a oneness that draws people to Him, proclaiming to all the love they know in Him.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”” (Galatians 5:13–14, ESV)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, ESV)