Editor’s Note: This is the fourteenth installment of a new series called “Illuminations,” which aims to highlight stories of cooperation, unity and diversity from across the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Illuminations is a communications initiative of the Illumination Project, a project of discernment and accompaniment involving CBF congregational leaders to illuminate the qualities that have built unity in CBF, and through discernment, identify intentional processes to maintain and grow unity through cooperation. Learn more about the Illumination Project at www.cbf.net/illuminationproject.
By Kristen Tucker
In Jesus’ prayer for all believers, he prays for those who will believe in Him to be as one.
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 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 loved me.” John 17: 20-23 (NRSV)
Considering the events of 2016, would you say community has been built in your life? Or do you feel more like an island? What about in your church? As I reflect on the year, I immediately am reminded of ‘social media’ posts of division and anger. So in my own reflections I have been convicted and challenged to spend time studying this prayer of Jesus.
The common theme of this prayer is WE ARE TO BE ONE! God the Father is in God the Son and God the Son is in God the Father. As Jesus died for us, Christ rose from the grave and now God the Holy Spirit lives in each believer. However, we also have an Enemy, and one may easily forget his resume. Just a couple of ‘characteristics’ from Satan’s resume:
He will come in and out of our lives, always looking for “a more opportune time.” Luke 4:13 (Disunity!)
“He comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” John 10:10a (Disunity!)
And while we think our struggle is against others, if you actually understand Satan’s resume, one will quickly recognize this is deception. The real struggle is “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
Friends, Satan is not somewhere stoking fires. Evil is alive and well, trying it’s best to create division, which not surprisingly, is exactly the opposite of what Jesus is praying!
In my community I can see where division desires to break us, but instead we are awaken and responding proactively! I live in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, where just two months ago our community was struck hard. As rioters came into our streets damaging our beautiful city, community members took action.
The riots were NOT our community: protesters of peaceful change were/are.
The damage was NOT our community: healing conversations and picking up the pieces were/are.
An agenda came from the unrest called ONE Charlotte. Their goal is to bring ONENESS, to be as one, to our city. ONE Charlotte contacted the different faith communities and invited partnerships with their efforts. If anyone is going to bring ONENESS, why shouldn’t it be from our community of Faith?
When we study the disciples and their lives we get a better picture of unity. They were all diverse in their occupations and backgrounds, but Christ brought them together, AS ONE, and encouraged them by action of how to love, care and serve.
Today, glory is here, which God the Father sent through Jesus so that we may be one as they are one! Jesus’ goal was not only to speak of unity, but to lead by example. Not only to “give them something to talk about,” but to show them the very first step of unity is prayer. Now Christs’ unity with God is ours through His Spirit; the intimacy of Jesus’ unity with God is now ours through His Spirit that we may be brought to complete unity.
Our ONENESS, as believers in Christ, is the true birth announcement of Jesus Christ! We are the body!
So I write this devotional to you to encourage you as we begin the New Year. Are we, as the Body of Christ, unified? Are we working with our congregations and communities to live IN Christ and through the POWER of the Holy Spirit? Blessings to you as you come together this year. Let’s pray to be unified, to rejoice “on earth as it is in heaven!”
Kristen Tucker serves as the minister of spiritual development and communications at Pritchard at South End in Charlotte, N.C.