It’s always interesting to notice what people focus on when they know they are about to die. Jesus’ final prayers and last evening before his trial and crucifixion show us what was on His heart. When He could have prayed for anything, one of Jesus’ top concerns was unity (John 17:20-23). Jesus prayed that all His followers be one as He and the Father are one. Then Jesus explains further that we are to be one in God. And it is in oneness with God that we reach perfection.
Jump back to the origins of mankind, when it was just God and Adam living in perfect harmony, God noticed that man was alone. He said that it is not good for man to be alone and responded by creating Eve. This has always struck me as kind of odd. How could Adam be alone if he was in perfect union with God? Remember this is before sin entered the world. Was hanging out with God in the garden in the cool of the day not enough? What was Adam missing?
Athol Dickson wrote in The Gospel according to Moses, “I do not say God was not enough to keep Adam from loneliness. I say instead, He was too much…The company of another human soul, seeing what I see, feeling what I feel, adds a sense of connection to God’s glory that is too overwhelming for me otherwise.”
Adam felt alone because God is just too big for our bucket. When we get overwhelmed, the natural human reaction is to look for someone on our level. We want someone to whom we can relate. Coming into contact with someone far greater than ourselves can cause us to hide. We become self conscious and feel out of place. It’s kind of like when you show up at a formal party dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. Most people would feel really awkward.
Community can foster our ability to grasp the divine. There is something really intimate about worshipping God alone in the woods. And yet there is something equally stirring about praising God as one voice in a large choir of singers. Both experiences are necessary to get a clearer picture of who God is and who He wants us to be.
My local church fellowship is focusing on developing community right now. And while you can’t really go out and make people be social, there is something about a coordinated campaign to push people to do things that they normally would not do.
During the church service this morning, I was struck by how shallow my sense of relationship is. I tend to pride myself on being a person who focuses on relationships, especially one-on-one interaction. My passion in ministry is discipleship and small groups. But the Spirit revealed to me this morning that I am only getting a glimpse of what it means to be one.
Small groups and chit-chat about our problems in life are only the surface of oneness. Those who are one can trust each other and are not secretly considered about what others think. Slander, envying and gossip are not the norm for those connected as one.
One builds up and does not tear down. One works toward common goals not personal agendas. One loves well. One forgives and restores. One rejoices and cries together as life impacts each member. One shares the burdens of the kingdom and distributes the workload so that no member gets overwhelmed. One is not united for unity’s sakes. One is only one when it exists as part of God’s body, working according to divine purposes. One body united through the power of the Holy Spirit is a formidable force against the schemes of Satan.
Oneness brings complete freedom yet total abandonment of self. This thought tends to freak out many people. They don’t want to lose their individuality. They misunderstand the point that Jesus was making. We don’t stop being ourselves. Actually, we become more who we were intended to be. We become more the real us, the person God had in mind before sin corrupted everything.
From drive by conversations to wearing masks, most relationships and communities lack oneness. Many people are afraid to be in relationship because we do not want to be honest. We try to protect ourselves and keep from getting hurt. In the process, our individuality gets in the way of oneness. We are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Instead, we are to look after each other and to stress the common good over our own personal appetites.
Father, help me to live as One with you and my fellow man. I long to get to the place where I get beyond me…my fears, hang-ups, prejudices, desires and limitations. Help me live as You intended. Lead me to the understanding that the best life starts in community as part of Your body.