“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have love me.” – John 17.22-23 (NRSV)
Jesus’ prayer for his disciples from the Gospel of John reminds me of the problems that I would be assigned to solve in my logic class in college. The question was the same for each problem: “Is this statement logical?” and the two possible outcomes were the same for each problem: 1) the statement is logical or 2) the statement is illogical. So I would sit down with all the methods and tools that I had learned in class and start working my way through the problem to eventually come to the conclusion that the statement was either logical or illogical. You wouldn’t have had to taken a class in logic to realize that this portion of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples is a metaphysical nightmare. How can a group of people be one? How can Jesus and God be one? How can Jesus be in his disciples while remaining his own self? How can God be in Jesus while remaining God’s self? 1+1 does not equal 1. No wonder the disciples seemed to be confused. Jesus’ statement doesn’t make logical sense.
But Jesus’ statement does make sense if you recognize “one” as a relational term rather than an individual unit.
I believe this is what the New Baptist Covenant was about: being one, beginning and renewing relationships with fellow Baptists. In the conversations that are now being had in light of the New Baptist Covenant, individuals and groups are determining how this oneness can be continued. There is an extensive list that has been created and opportunities are beginning to be explored of how this oneness can become more than a moment but can become a movement.
I think there is one thing that those who seek a unifying voice underneath the banner of the New Baptist Covenant must continue to do if they are to remain one: continue to worship together corporately. When we worship together relationships are built from the commonality of God instead of the commonality of our agendas and beliefs.
This past week our youth went to New York City to take part in a mission immersion experience based out of Metro Baptist Church and the Rauschenbusch Ministries. We ministered with people at Metro Baptist, at Greater Restoration in Brooklyn, as part of the Holy Apostle’s Soup Kitchen, at Graffiti Baptist, and to the people that we met along our journey. But it was when we worshipped with the diverse congregations of Metro Baptist, Brooklyn Tabernacle, St. Patrick’s, and Riverside that I felt that there was no sense of me and them, but a sense of we, a sense of oneness. The sense of oneness did not come because the differences were ignored, but because the differences were celebrated. We were all worshiping the same God no matter our sex, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, or economic status. I believe that while we were in New York City our group experienced what it was like to be one through our times of worship.
So I say, “If we are to be one, we must worship as one.”