I have been involved fairly intensely with a wide range of Christian networks seeking to foster unity amongst the people of God over the last 20 years and at all levels. The values of these various bodies were fairly uniform, and the scriptures used were drawn from a common pool. Texts like 2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 133; John 17 and Ephesians 4 have all been part of a staple diet promoting our unity in Christ. Whilst many parts of the Church are certainly far less competitive than they have traditionally been something is still deeply missing in the area of manifest oneness in the Church. In this brief meditation I am seeking to break some new ground, if not theologically at least in terms of attitude. Recently I touched on what I believe is the missing link in the area of actualising unity. Here is what I remarked, “Jesus said, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one”” (John 17:22). It is not that difficult to forgive brothers and sisters who have hurt us, but it is much more difficult to pray that the glory of God come upon their lives and ministries. Without this however the world will never see the oneness in the Church for which Jesus prayed and died.” Seeking glory for those who “despitefully use” us (Luke 6:28) is the focus of this teaching.
There cannot be two centres, me and Jesus! “Either Jesus is Lord of all, or he is not Lord at all.” A simple way of reflecting on this has to do with identity. Lon Ellison records the drift of some statements that troubled him at a recent international missions conference, “I’m a Chinese Christian. I’m an African Christian. I’m all about younger leaders. I’m all about the Diaspora or the AIDS crisis or trafficking, I’m with such-and-such denomination. I’m with such-and-such organization. I believe the local church is THE only means to save the world, etc”. he concludes that the Great Commission will never be completed whilst we live in an environment of competing “centrisms”. Where we define ourselves by anything other than Jesus we seek to create another centre and we cease to live as one family with one Father.
I remember sitting at a breakfast table in Pt. Moresby with a believer who was Japanese. We talked briefly about his vocation, Japan and the gospel and so on. Then I said, “Do you know brother such and such (a prominent Christian from Japan).” I found his reply stunning, “Yes, but he is not very Japanese.” I believe he was saying the “un-Japanese attributes” in this fellow believer’s life somehow diminished his worth. This rather extreme illustration clarifies my main point, if Jesus is the sole centre and circumference of the purposes of God (Col 1:15) then our total identity and glory can only be found in him.
The Power of Judgement
A friend responded to comments in my previous article about the need to forgive with the observation that so many Christians seemed to hold on to unforgiveness that it seemed to be some form of “addiction”. This is true and the addiction is an addiction to power. In refusing to forgive I take power over a relationship, and there is nothing anyone can do about this except me! Judgementalism as an expression of self-satisfying personal power is the most extreme form of human self-centredness. The right to pass a verdict against another person is the most stubborn act of the human will, principally because it gives us a sense of god-like status or sovereignty in a relationship.
What distinguishes Christianity from faith systems is its accent on love expressed in forgiveness. The gospel alone has the power that can transform human nature so that people no longer view God through the judgemental lens of their own hearts but as an all forgiving Father. This is what makes Jesus’ message the glory of God.
When Jesus prayed,““The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one”” (John 17:23), he used very familiar biblical terms which however require clarification. The “glory of God” is not some property of God but the revealed fullness of all that he is. In John’s Gospel, the glory of Jesus is that “of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth….” (John 1:14). The glory of the Son is to reveal the truth that God is a gracious Father, an insight which is given in a highly particular way.
Jesus prays, ““Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”….Jesus answered, “…Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:27-33)
The means by which the Father and Son glorify each other is the casting out of “the ruler of this world”, Satan. The defeat of Satan, whose name means “accuser”, means the end of all condemnation that could have been justly directed against the children of God. Jesus achieves this victory for us by being “lifted up from the earth” on the cross. Crucifixion in the ancient world (Deut 21:22-23) was the place of ultimate blameworthiness. Paradoxically, Jesus will enter into glory by becoming the inglorious scapegoat of the world. The greatest manifestation of God’s power, the final public revelation of the Father, will be the death of the beloved Son for his enemies (Rom 5:10). To suffer that enemies might know the Father is the means by which Jesus communicates the divine glory.
The cross of Jesus reveals God to be a wholly non-condemning Father. To see the Father and Son in their mutual forgiving suffering love in the sacrificing is to have a revelation of the unity and glory of God. It is to know the glory of which Jesus prayed (John 17:22). The God of glory (Acts 7:2) is not like all other powers, idols, gods, religions, philosophies, nations, companies, brand names, football teams, all which compete for glory. Between the Father and the Son and the Spirit the glory of one is the glory of another is the glory of all. The Church is called to live in this shared glory.
Different parts of the body of Christ glory in tradition, age, size, doctrine, experience, growth and so on. But the Spirit is saying, “It is time for the Church to stand up and be counted, to be counted, as one.” Just as for eternity the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always been giving glory to each other so we should passionately seek glory for each other in the name of Jesus. Just as the fullness of the glory of God was not imparted to humanity in the faultlessness of Eden, but to a race that murdered the Son of God, so believers should be seeking glory for those who have most intentionally abused them. The sufferings of rejection and abuse that we have experienced in the family of God are a grace-given opportunity to reveal the glory bringing unity of Christ upon the earth.
The Spirit is seeking to bring forth a renewed vision to the people of God today, this is God’s own ancient vision of seeing all things in his glory and seeing his glory in all things. Seeking to see his glory come for each other is a difficult, Christ-like decision, and can only come in crucifying power. But this crucifying power is the medium of the resurrection in which all things hold together as one (Heb 1:3). It is by sharing in the struggling, suffering love of Jesus to see the undeserving enter into glory (Heb 2:9) that we shall experience the presence of God enveloping the Church. This immersion is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is coming back “soon” (Rev 22:7, 12), not in a splendour centred in himself but ““in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”” (Mark 8:38). This will be the full and final manifestation of the grace of the One God whose greatest passion has always been to baptise humanity in his own glorious life. This is the saving message of the gospel and the truth that condemnation is found nowhere in the heart of the Father.
The Church of today must recall how Jesus’ prayers proceeded in John 17, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”” (John 17:22-23). Every day 150,000 people die in our world. Fifty million people will step into eternity in 2011, the great majority of these do not know Jesus. God’s own heart revealed in Christ can only come to complete oneness when all the lost sons and daughters come home to glory.
Now is the hour to press beyond all our “centrisms”, to freely forgive all others and to sacrifice our own interests that they might come to know the glory of God. May we turn the words of an old song into a prayer, “I can see in you the glory of my King and I love you with the love of the Lord.”
 A brief but helpful treatment of this issue is, To Hell with the “Centrisms” by Lon Allison, www.lausanneworldpulse.com/leadershipmemo/1369/01-2011
 John 3:16; Rom 5:8; Eph 5:2; 1 John 3:16; 4:9-10
 Like the individual attributes of righteousness, wisdom, goodness, power etc.
 For execution as a “lifting up” see Genesis 40:13, 19-22 and the crowd’s response in v. 34.
 Ps 19:1, Isa 6:3; 43:7; Hab 2:14; Rev 21:23; 22:5