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"I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me."

-Jesus (John 17:21-23)

There is something profound in the fact that Jesus prays that his followers will be one. God-in-the-flesh doesn't force it. He doesn't manipulate us into it. He prays for it. He longs for it to be true of us. But he can't make it happen without our participation.

As a pastor, I struggle to know how much to be honest about my feelings sometimes - particularly my fears or worries. I have hope in Jesus and I want to embody that hope. But I do find myself dealing with fears and worries, too. One of those fears or worries is around how well - Covenant Christian Community Church - will embody a Christlike oneness as we move into the fall.

We live in a world divided by opinions, priorities, politics, and attitudes. Those divisions exist within our church community. And those divisions can run deep. A healthy church is not a social club where we never go deeper than surface issues. A healthy church isn't a theological club where we can coexist as long as we agree on a few core convictions (and don't talk about the others that we don't agree on). A healthy church isn't a service organization where we cooperate around a common cause (even it is a great common cause) for the benefit of society.

A healthy church (at least from an anabaptist perspective) is a gathering of different people - often radically different people - who have said yes to aligning with the person, practices, perspectives, and postures of Jesus. And, through that, they become a new family. If we hope for the oneness Jesus longs for us to have, I'm convinced that this essential nature of what it means to be a church has to remain front and centre for us. In order to keep that front and centre and to continue to pursue the oneness Jesus prayed for, let me suggest three things that will help us.

  1. Conviction. We are a Be In Christ Church of Canada church. A part of a long tradition of anabaptist people who have sought to align with and embody the way of Jesus in the world. The person, practices, perspectives, and posture of Jesus shapes every aspect of who we are - how we read the Bible, how we engage in our community, how we engage (or disengage) in the political realm, how we handle our finances, how we respond to those who have hurt us, and even how we disagree. That is our conviction and what we invite all those who are a part of Covenant to join us in. That leads us to a second thing that will help us be one:
  2. Clarity. I don't like offending people. I want everyone to know they are welcome and to feel welcome at Covenant. In our efforts to not offend people and to make everyone feel welcome, however, we sometimes sacrifice clarity. We may sacrifice clarity about what we do have a shared conviction on (e.g. reading the Bible through a Jesus-centred perspective). Or we may sacrifice clarity by not being honest about things we don't have a shared conviction on (e.g. how we understand the Bible's teaching regarding committed same-sex relationships). But lack of clarity does not breed oneness. It breeds confusion. The primary clarity that we need to speak and embody is that we are a Jesus-centred people. We invite people to join us around this person who expresses the very character of God (Hebrews 1:3 NLT) and his practices, perspectives, and postureWe pray with Jesus, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." And then we join Jesus in embodying God's shalom (peace, rightness) and God's love in our world. In a world of misrepresentation and misinformation, it is important that we understand that this is who we are seeking to be as a church. But that leads to the third thing that I believe we will need to embody if we are going to pursue the oneness Jesus longs for us.
  3. Compassion. We must find ways to hold our Jesus-centred conviction with deep clarity while still having Jesus-like compassion for those who are not on the same page as we are. Even among those who share conviction and clarity, we won't always be on the same page on significant issues. But we can be on the same page in showing compassion - genuine love, listening, embrace, and care - for those we radically disagree with. Compassion is central to how God is represented in Jesus' parables. The Samaritan had compassion for the man he saw close to death on the side of the road. (Luke 10) The father was filled with compassion for his rebellious, wasteful, hurtful, pig-smelling son. (Luke 15) God has compassion for us and as those committed to living the way of Jesus, we need to work hard at fostering compassion.

With those three things - a shared conviction that we are Jesus people committed to figuring out together how to be shaped by him, his practices, his perspectives, and his posture; a clarity around who we are; and a commitment to fostering deep Christlike compassion even if (perhaps especially if) people are not on the same page as us - I have hope that we will be able to embody the oneness Jesus longs for us to know through him. And that as we do that, the world will be able to see Jesus through us!

I've used this prayer (attributed to St. Francis of Assisi) many times, but I'm returning to it during these days of increased division...division that I'm regularly tempted to participate in.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.


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