Oneness and God's Diverse Family

By: Greg Dixon

The World Needs Love.

A cursory glance at the world at large reveals a global community of people engaged in an ongoing struggle with both natural and moral evil. From the lingering and crippling effects of a global pandemic, ongoing racial tensions in America, extreme poverty and resulting hunger in many areas across the globe, to the ongoing destructive warfare between nations and against terrorism, natural causes may explain some of what ails the world, however moral evil (injustice) remains the major cause of strife. Moral evil can be defined as morally negative events caused by the intentional action or inaction of an agent, such as a person. Like the old Hal David and Burt Bacharach song ‘What the World Needs Now is Love’ states, “Lord we don’t need another mountain...or meadow... Lord, if you want to know, what the world needs now is Love”.

Jesus Offers Divine Love. 

I was only 2 years old in 1965 when the lyrics from this song were written, and if for some strange reason I was asked today for my opinion on how to improve the song, I would readily agree that love is what the world needs, but not the love they’re referring to. I’d also add that the lyrics “if you (Lord) want to know” should be changed to “you do know” because God has already provided divine love through His Son, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

But you may be thinking, I know what Christ did for me on Calvary to forgive my sins and that by believing in Him I have been given an eternal home, but what is God doing about all the evil and suffering that still exists in the world? I believe the answer for the church can be found in John 17. This is normally referred to as “The High Priestly Prayer”, where Jesus prays for His disciples, including you, that we would pursue oneness, the greatest gift he’s given to the church to confront moral evil in the world (John 17:20).

But how do we do this? Let’s look a little closer at this chapter to find out. As Jesus is preparing the disciples to remain strengthened during His crucifixion and after His return to the Father, He did not pray for our prosperity, comfort or health but rather that we would become one, as He is one with the Father (John 17:11, 21-23).

Love is Demonstrated through Oneness. 

So, what’s the big idea with this prayer for oneness in the body of Christ? First, Jesus is not praying for uniformity or sameness, but for the unity of His disciples around a common purpose. God is not looking for cookie cutter Christianity where everyone looks the same and gathers around a majority expression (think communication and music) but rather a family of diverse image bearers that when unified around a common purpose are able to become His effective witnesses in the world. This effectiveness normally flows from a community of believers who are welcome and free to express their love for Jesus in the way that He created them, free of judgment within the family of Christ. As Paul writes, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

Additionally, the common purpose to which we have all been called is to proclaim the gospel with boldness and to make disciples of all who believe. What Jesus is praying for is that we would develop caring and deeply relational bonds with each other that overcome the earthly differences we possess. He says when we figure this oneness thing out, the world will know that God sent Christ and that the world would also know that He loves them as much as he loves His Son (John 17:23). What a powerful thought, that God the Father who knows my faults, failures and future sins loves me as much as He loves His Son. And that oneness between his diverse set of disciples would be how the unbelieving world would see this love demonstrated.

So, if the world needs love, God has given the church the purest form of love to offer the world. A love from the Father that has forgiven our sins through Christ’s atoning death on the cross, that not only offers eternal life but also an earthly family, the church. From many different people Christ has created a new people who are identified not by race, culture or creed but by the one who redeemed us and granted us adoption into the family of God. I like how Eugene Peterson states this about Ephesians 2:14-15, “He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance... Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.”

So in conclusion, evil and suffering exists because of man’s sin nature, the preaching of the gospel’s context is what frees humanity from slavery to this sin nature (Romans 8:2), and the teaching of the gospel’s scope is what leads to freedom and growth in Christ. Our effectiveness in sharing the context and the scope of the gospel is dependent on whether we actively seek oneness between God’s diverse body of believers.