Read: John 17:9-13
The first part of my junior year was one of the most isolated seasons of my life. I had moved out of my dorm and into an on-campus apartment. On top of this, my schedule was significantly different than my friends, so I saw less and less of the people I’d come to know and love. I still had all of my closest friendships of course. We still went out and had deep conversations, but the rhythm of daily life was spent by myself. I grocery shopped, cooked, ran errands, and spent afternoons on homework alone. I didn’t feel seen because my day-to-day life was spent in isolation. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just was the way things were. It still hurt though—and it made me see myself and my human-ness in a new light. I was not made to be alone. There is a fundamental lack to life when it is spent in isolation. Emotionally and physically, human beings were created to be near others in a loving community.
In today’s passage, Jesus is praying for the unity of His disciples, and those who will come after them. The language Jesus’ uses is dense with meaning, and ought to cause us readers to perk up our ears a little. There’s a complex weave of very figurative as well as interpersonal language being used in this prayer. You get the feeling like you’re reading poetry, far removed from the kind of language used in an essay. In fact, I think the language here sounds very much like the complex and interweaving language at the beginning of John 1, about the Word being God and was with God in the beginning, etc. This figurative, almost dance-like way of writing is the kind you might see in a love letter, when what was only prose a moment before suddenly bursts into poetry, without words to describe exactly what’s being felt. I see it as Trinity language.
Jesus prayed that they would be protected by the power of the Father’s name so that “they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11). Jesus and the Father are beautifully and perfectly unified through their perfect love for each other. Since we are made in God’s image, there is an in-born need for community. This is the kind of thing Jesus came to establish on earth, a community of people, reborn into eternal living through the power of God. His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10)! It’s the most natural thing in the world that someone saved from sin would desire to live in a loving community of other believers—because we’re all sharing the beauty of the Kingdom of God now and into eternity.
The good news is that we don’t have to muster up this unity on our own. It’s not something we construct out of our own will-power. This kind of love and life comes when we trust in Christ as Lord and Savior. The phrase, “not a religion, but a relationship” has been misconstrued and misapplied in many cases, but here it rings true. It is offered to us by Christ as a gift of grace, that we live out in our earthly lives, “in the world” (John 17:11).
You are a part of the global and timeless community of believers. We don’t always choose to live like this, but it’s the truth! Our relationship with God, life on earth, etc. are not meant to be done alone. God has placed us in a community of believers to worship, serve, rejoice, mourn, and grow alongside one another. The daily rhythms of our spiritual walk are meant to coincide with our daily social rhythms. Let’s live like we believe this is true, and love from a well deeper than ourselves!
While it’s true that we are part of the greater body of Christians, it takes action on our part to live this out. Quiet your heart and pray that the Spirit would put someone you know on your heart. Listen to what the Spirit wants you to pray, and then act on that prompting. Maybe text them, telling them you’re praying for them, or better yet call them! You may be the hands of Christ on earth reaching out in love to a son or daughter in need.