May they be one as you, Father, and I are one: overcoming segregation in the church

God is using the changes in our parish to make us read the scriptures from a fresh perspective.  In the space of ten or fifteen years, people from all over the world have moved into our small, once settled community.  We are being made to ask what being “one” as a church looks like and we are beginning to see some answers in John’s gospel.

My prayer is…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 (John 17:22).

If we are to be one as the Father and Son are one, then we need to know some of the ways that the Father and Son are one. So far, there are four ways I have found in John’s gospel.

  1.  God the Father and God the Son are the same but different
  2.  God the Father and God the Son know each other perfectly
  3.  God the Father and God the Son love each other
  4.  God the Father and God the Son bring glory to each other

1.  God the Father and God the Son are the same but different

John 1:1 – the Word is God and the Word was with God, the same but different.

John 5 whatever the Father does the Son also does. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father.

Jesus does the same work as His Father and receives the same honour.  They are the same but different.

The Father and the Son are one

John 10:30 I and the Father are one
John 14:10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?

The Father and the Son are different

Jesus prays to his Father, “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you. (John 17:25) and speaks about His Father’s house (John 14:2).

The oneness or unity of the church will reflect this truth about God.

The followers of Jesus are the same but different

We are the same:

  • We are all made in the image of God
  • We are all redeemed by the death of Jesus
  • We are all made holy and pleasing in his sight

Yet we are all different

  • We are male and female
  • We are young and old
  • We are rich and poor
  • We come from different ethnic groups

And so if the local church becomes too much of the same, all male or all young or all rich or all one ethnic group, then it would seem that something has gone wrong, where it is possible for us to be the same but different.

  1. God the Father and God the Son know each other perfectly

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father (John 10:14)

One of the greatest truths about God is that Father and Son know each other perfectly.  They are not strangers.

That means that the followers of Jesus Christ need to know each other, they cannot be strangers.  There can be no arms’ length oneness in the local church, but we are to get to know each other, with all our struggles and joys, our histories and hopes.

3. God the Father and God the Son love each other

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. (John 3:35)

I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. (John 14:30-31)

The followers of Jesus Christ are to love one another as Jesus loved his Father

His is not a soppy, sentimental or emotional love, but a love which is willing to put the needs of others before our own, even when that is painful.   A love which is willing to keep the commandments of God, even when it is costly.

But why should we bother trying to love people who are not like us?  Why not stick to our own kind?  Why not segregate?  It is much easier to meet as a church with people who we like and who are like us.

4. God the Father and God the Son bring glory to each other

True followers of Jesus want to bring glory to each other, because that brings glory to our heavenly Father.  Jesus prayed at the last supper, just before he was going to die.  After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you…. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. (John 17:1-5)

God the Father has delighted in his Son and given him glory from before the world began.
God the Son has delighted in his Father and given him glory from before the world began.

When followers of Jesus want their brothers and sisters to look glorious, and not to take glory for themselves, then God the Father and God the Son look glorious.

So, in church, we want to outdo each other giving glory.

Become one, so that the world knows that Jesus came from the Father.

People in the UK were once enthralled by multiculturalism, and excited about the diversity and flavours brought here by many people from many nations.  The original enthusiasm has dwindled, however, as the novelty wore off, and so we find ourselves more wearied by segregation and and wary of ghettoisation.

The Lord of the harvest has provided a vast harvest field and so we must ask Him for workers.  We must also ask for the local church to be ready to be one in ways which we have not been one in the past, so that the world might know that Jesus was sent by his Father.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
This entry was posted in church leadership, Heterogenous Church, Inner City Ministry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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