One of the ways, in fact the main way, in which we, as Christ’s body on earth, are called to validate our claim that He is the Saviour of the world, is by the way we live and work together as His people. Jesus’ last supper discourse with His disciples, and His prayer for them, all recorded for us in John chapters 13-17, emphasise that this was the plan. At this precious time, when He knew He was soon to leave them, He repeatedly spoke about the love that was to be between them, and not just between them, but between all who would believe in Him from that time on.
Let’s listen again to Jesus as He spoke to those disciples saying, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love Him and show myself to him”. John 14: 21. “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12.
And let’s also listen to Jesus conversation with His father. “Holy Father protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.” John 17:11. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray for all 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23.
It would seem that unity, love and oneness are to be the hallmarks of our life together as Christians. Not only does this bring glory to God and point the world to the authenticity of the gospel. It also delights the Father’s heart and causes Him to dwell more evidently with us in our communities. And this is because it is, and will always be, a complete miracle, brought about by the power of God, through Christ, indwelling each one of us.
Like Mary we can find ourselves (if we are honest) wondering “How can these things be?” The answer is, I think, to be found in that wonderful, but sometimes overlooked, phrase ‘I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one’. If at any time you have been in a meeting or spending time with the Lord and you have felt His blessing, you will know that you have met with the Lord because you will be aware that a greater love for your brothers and sisters has risen in your heart. Basically we can only love as He loved us, and be one with each other, as His glory rests upon and in us day by day.
And what does His glory look or feel like?? Well let us stand next to Moses as he asks the Lord to reveal His glory to him. ‘And the Lord said “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you.” Exodus 33:18,19. And ‘then the Lord came down in the cloud and proclaimed His name (His character) “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”’ Exodus 34:5,6,7.
It would seem that God’s glory is totally entwined in His character, it’s who He in essence is. And as He gives us His glory because of Jesus, then those qualities will be found in us, in our ‘new life in Christ’. If he has loved us enough to save us and give us His new nature, then that love and unity amongst us becomes possible. We too can now be ‘compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness’, as we allow the Holy Spirit to live in and through us.
Put simply ‘We love because He first loved us.’ 1 John 4:19. John, the apostle of love, writes in his letter to the churches ‘God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him…….Whoever loves God must also love his brother.’ For him there can be no alternative, but as we know and as we have been exploring in the blogs over the last week or so, we still have that choice whether to ‘live by the Spirit’ by reckoning ourselves ‘dead to our old life and alive to Christ’, or whether to go on living according to our old sinful nature. We will let Paul’s words be our final encouragement here to make that right choice in the moment.
‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts …….and be thankful.’ Colossians 3:12-15.
As we stay thankful for the Lord’s love and forgiveness for us in our own lives; as we stay thankful for all our brothers and sisters, (even the ‘difficult’ ones) and as we thank Him that He has given us His glory by His Spirit, I believe we will grow more and more into that loving community that He has ordained and given the amazing honour of representing Him on the earth.