I often find it hard to believe that I have the capacity to love people as much as I do. Not just my spouse, but family, friends and even people I hardly know or have never met. From where does this degree of love come?
I find it even harder to believe that God can love me as much as He does. After all, who am I but a speck in the universe? Who am I but just another sinner in the world? Who am I but a weak soul wrapped up in flesh and bones?
I do not find it hard to believe that many, if not all, of you have — at some time or another — asked these same questions.
Well, Jesus foresaw our confusion some 2,000 years ago; I think anyone would agree that not much got by Him. And luckily for us, He provided the answers in John 17, what is often termed the true Lord’s Prayer.
And the answers are a doozy.
We find the answers to these questions in John 17: 20-26. The subhead over these verses in my Bible is titled “Jesus Prays for All Believers.”
So, let’s look at these verses and just what they mean for us (I promise, you will be astounded.)
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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.” Verses 20-21
If you start reading John 17 from the beginning, by the time you get to Verse 20 you may think Jesus was only praying for those who believed in Him at that time. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and Jesus will spell that out in very simple terms.
If by the time you get to Verse 20, you – like me – find yourself asking, “Hey, but what about me?”
Jesus provides this answer: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”
Yes, that’s me (and you, too)!
Though I wasn’t alive when Jesus physically walked the Earth, I can read and study his message from those who were alive at the time. And through their stories, I do believe in Jesus (although seeing Him work in the present through myself and others is a huge part of my belief).
And what’s my payoff for believing because of their message?
That I may be in God the Father and Jesus, and thus be a living testimony that the Father sent Jesus to redeem me.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – Verses 22 and 23.
The goal of every Christian should be no division; no Catholics or Protestants, no Presbyterians, Methodists or Baptists or anything else that divides us. And our second goal should be to stop debating things that won’t tackle the true issues Christians face today and will face in the future.
It is as one army that we should protect each other, tackle social problems and fight against the harshness of the natural world.
It is estimated there up to 3 billion Christians in the world today – or at least people who identify as Christian. That’s quite an army. I venture to say that any general would be ecstatic to have an army of that size.
Then add in the diversity of our army: Scientists, doctors, nurses, engineers, politicians … the list is endless. There would be leaders and foot soldiers aplenty.
We could then organize this giant army to tackle the greatest threats to humanity, one or two threats at time: Hunger, true poverty, diseases, homelessness and inadequate living conditions, human rights … again the list is endless.
Who knows what we could accomplish if all Christians, and I mean all of us, were in complete unity?
But Jesus – as He often did – raised the stakes even higher for us. He didn’t just pray for us to be in complete unity, but for Him to be in us, just as God the Father was in Him.
Now think about the power of our army.
We read throughout the gospels of Jesus making the seemingly impossible possible. Filling the bellies of thousands with just a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread. Quieting storms. Healing the sick and maimed when there were no other remedies. Even raising the dead.
If I can’t image all we could accomplish if every Christian came together in unity, I really can’t imagine what we could accomplish with Jesus also in us.
“Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” Verses 23b-24
There are thousands and thousands, maybe millions, of love songs and poems. There’s even an entire Old Testament book dedicated to it. In these songs and poems, we learn love is a many splendored thing, it makes the world go ‘round, it lifts us higher, it’s all we need, and we just can’t help falling into it. It’s even said love is like oxygen; that if we don’t get enough, we’ll die.
How important is love? Well, there are numerous studies tackling tat very subject; on us being loved as well as loving others (and yes, both appear to be equally important).
How important was love at the time the Bible was penned? Well, words have been translated to “love” in the Bible on 310 occasions in the Old King James Version, 551 times in the New International Version and a whopping 898 times in the New Living Translation, according to an article on the website adornedheart.com.
With love being such an integral part of our lives, and necessary, John 17:23b-24 puts succinctly just how much we are loved by God the Father.
But let’s look at the verses in reverse to get the full impact.
In the second verse, Jesus talks about how much the Father loves Him via “the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” And prior to that, Jesus had pointed out that the Father loves us “even as you have loved me.”
Now that’s a whole lot of lovin’!
But that speaks of us being loved. What about us loving others?
We must move out of John to get that answer. In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus says we’re to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.
That should also be a whole lot of lovin’.
The big finish
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” Verses 25-26
Jesus once again emphasizes “love” and that, if our hearts are open to Him, He will be in us.
Jesus points out the world does not know God; while the world may know of God it doesn’t really know Him. Take heart, however, because Jesus has made Him known to us. And the icing on the cake is that Jesus promises to continue to make God known to us even more.
So, why is this so important? I’ll tell you why.
To me this is one of the key verses in the entire Bible: So that the love the Father has for Jesus may be in us.
I can’t do cartwheels, but if I could this statement would definitely make me do many of them.
Image by Archie Binamira at Pexels