Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Messy, Albeit Glorious Affair

(John 17:21-23) That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

This is a portion of what many have called “Christ’s priestly prayer” and hearing it, we begin to understand the perfection of Jesus’ union with the Father and his overriding desire for those he came to save.

Jesus prays that his followers would be one just as the Father and Son are one. Jesus then describes his oneness with the Father in terms of mutual-indwelling (theologians call this perichoresis.) The Father indwelling the Son and the Son indwelling the Father, simultaneously; multiple persons intimately involved with one another; each loving, deferring to and seeking the well-being and glory of the other.

There is a powerful and perennial temptation to idealize this communion (the communion of the saints.) But the truth is that covenant community is a messy, abeit glorious affair; a hurly-burly business filled and fraught with sin and strangeness, hurt and help, repentance and restoration, consternation and communion. To attempt the sort of oneness that Jesus describes is a risky business. Every opening of our souls to the brethren for edification and encouragement exposes us to the possibility of abuse, manipulation and/or neglect. Every advance, or increase, in mutual-indwelling multiplies the risk of hurt and harm. But note what it does as well: It tells, and indeed convinces the world that the Father sent the Son into the world to save the world. Perichoresis, the practice of Biblical covenant community, is a potent declaration of the Gospel, and the ultimate and efficacious antidote for unbelief. The effectiveness of tracts, crusades, concerts and street evangelism all pale in comparison to the powerful testimony of covenant community; for it is a living, walking, breathing demonstration of God’s power to make a new vibrant humanity out of the graveyard of Adam’s fallen race; a testimony of God’s ability to take cosmic rebels, rascals and recluses, and fashion them into a kingdom of royal priests who are able to live reconciled to God and to one another, inclined to serve and overflowing with the self-denying love and sublime joy present in the Holy Trinity from eternity past.

True community brings heaven down to earth; the perichoretic union of the saints displays both God’s character and His purpose to save the world. This cannot be done in the spirit of isolation, insulation or independency. Rather it must be done by diverse members joined together in the spirit of joyful interdependency; diverse members who are, as Paul taught, members of one another; covenantally ONE, even as the Father and Son are one.

No comments: