Contempt, and not just anger, flowered in Charlottesville. Jesus wants the church to be a startling answer to that contempt. He prays that we “…may become perfectly one, so that the world [think, friends, neighbors, enemies, colleagues, political pundits, social psychologists, people on the left and the right] may know that you sent me.”
Yes, we must speak up for what is just and true. Yes, we must wrestle with each other over how best to love our neighbors as ourselves. But that is not enough. We must be, in how we conduct ourselves with each other, a living alternative to contempt. We must be sociologically inexplicable, and for that reason a winsome invitation to our angry and cynical neighbors to take a serious look at the person we call Lord.
Notice one quality in the harmony for which Jesus prays. He wants us to all “to be one, as[he and the Father] are one.” Think of how the Father, Son, and Spirit continually defer to and honor one another. Now imagine an election campaign, or an international summit on peace in Syria, or a church family, in which all the parties do likewise: in which people “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10)—in which the only “competition” is over who can listen more carefully, who can speak more graciously to and about the other, and who can better promote the legitimate interests of the other. No flattery, no manipulation, no sneering; simply, and always, good will. This is how the Trinity “does” community. It is how Jesus prays we will, even when we despise each other’s politics—all so that our neighbors will savor in us a foretaste of heaven.
- Pray that churches, beginning with yours, will awaken to the enormous missional opportunity to be found, given the present climate, in church harmony.
- Pray that the Spirit will make our churches safe places—so filled with the love of the Father and the Son that we can wrestle with each other over politics.