Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 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. John 17:20-23
As I was praying this morning, I heard a bird outside my window. Oh, the joy of that bird! A single, solitary bird offering a cacophony of sounds. It was gleefully exploring – creating – all of the sounds available to it; all the rhythms, tones, notes that it could conceive and execute, in myriad combinations. I just couldn’t help but smile as I sat there contemplating what that bird was experiencing as it sang out the joy of creation – the lightening of the morning sky, the warming of the air, and the seemingly irresistible urge to…just…sing! Many throughout the history of mankind have extolled the simple joy of a songbird. Now, so have I. And this has little to do with the subject of this post. Or maybe it does…
What does it mean to “be one”? What is “oneness”? How do we become one…with each other, with Christ, with the Father? (Heck, maybe the first challenge is to become one with ourselves!) What does it mean to be “of one heart and one mind”? What does it really look like and feel like? Most importantly, how might we bring such oneness about that we might enjoy such a blissful state – assuming that it would actually be blissful? Christ prayed to the Father that we might be one – with each other, with Him, with the Father. Is this something that we can do for ourselves, or is it something that we must ask for and passively receive?
Unsurprisingly, I have some thoughts about this. Fortunately (especially for me), I’ve had some experience that has certainly helped me understand a little better how this oneness might be brought about. Equally unsurprisingly, this experience has to do with my marriage.
One aspect of a joyful marriage is that one must feel the ability and desire to celebrate the uniqueness and individuality of the other, and be willing to love the person for who they are, not for who you want them to be. It’s easy for me to see the angelic traits in my wife because – well – that’s who she is. She’s easy to love. And it’s easy for me to just enjoy her being herself, and to encourage her in pretty much everything she does, because she rarely does anything out of fear or jealousy or pride, and never to hurt me or anyone else. Because it’s so easy, I’ve been able to practice and to experience the results. Obviously, I’ve been really blessed in this way.
I’ve written before about the idea that, in a marriage of oneness, it is critical to be willing to accept all decisions as shared and equally owned. Regardless of how the decision came about, or how it turns out, once it is made and agreed upon as the most desirable course of action for the two of you, you both own the decision. “I told you so” is never an option. Not even “I was afraid of that” can enter into the one’s thoughts. This state of oneness or partnership requires great faith, commitment, and trust – in each other of course, but also in the belief that we are eternal, divine beings and that Christ’s expansive micro-sermon about the lilies of the field is truth, even a promise. One must have faith that pursuing this oneness will yield a greater reward than attempting to control every aspect of the relationship in homage to our fears.
And there’s the segue to our discussion on the oneness of all men. The rules are the same, whether it be a two person relationship or a two billion person relationship. We need to be able to celebrate each other’s uniqueness and individuality. We need to be willing to overlook any fears or pride and acknowledge each other’s eternal, divine nature. If we are to be one with each other, and Christ, and the Father, we need to accept each other, including Christ and the Father, for who they are, and not for who we want them to be. We must be willing and able to enjoy each other being themselves, and encourage each other in the pursuit of our righteous desires.
Furthermore, we need to be willing to accept each other’s decisions within the perspective of the Sermon on the Mount. In other words, it’s all good. God’s will is that we love, and His promise, through the atonement, is that we will all realize our divine nature, as that is our eternal destiny, the very fulfillment of the measure of our creation. We must somehow develop the belief that everything is part of God’s will – even as it unfolds before us.
And this is NOT easy!
And it requires “…great faith, and commitment, and trust – in each other… but also in the belief that we are eternal, divine beings and that Christ’s expansive micro-sermon about the lilies of the field is truth, even a promise. One must have faith that pursuing this oneness will yield a greater reward than attempting to control every aspect of the relationship in homage to our fears”.
Accepting this oneness is not an option – it is an eventual certainty. Not accepting it is a lie, and an exercise in futility because, as individual, unique manifestations of the same God, the same creator, we are, by our very nature, one. Yet, we will continue for as long as it takes to deny the truth, and believe the lie – until that perfect day when the lie no longer sustains us.
The opposite of oneness is separation.
This separation that defines our current state of existence is embedded deeply in our beliefs:
- The 4 C’s of separation – comparison à competition à contention à control – undermines everything I mentioned above, yet they are the bedrock of our fallen state. We actually believe that comparing ourselves to others is the way we’re supposed to be. This is not of God.
- The very idea that some will spend eternity in oneness with God, while others will not, ensures that we will never have oneness.
- Churches, hierarchies, prophets, apostles, noble and great ones, authority, power…saved vs. condemned – separation conventions all.
- Judgment, even “righteous judgment”, if it is perceived to elevate one above another in our own eyes or in the eyes of God, perpetuates separation.
- Any idea that the decisions of others are a potential threat to one’s welfare; any idea of attack, or insult, or offense; all perpetuate separation, and thus deny oneness.
And this is NOT easy!
If we are to be one with each other, we must understand our true nature. If we are to be one with Christ, we must understand His true nature in conjunction with our own. After all, if we seek oneness with Christ, but perpetuate a nature that is contrary to His, how can we be one with Him? How can we be one with each other?
In that context, I’d like to explore the nature of Christ.
Christ is love. Picture Him for a minute in flowing white robes, like in Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Christus statue. The robes fall loosely, gently, perhaps moving slightly in the breeze. There are folds – gentle, round folds – not sharp ones – that just sort of exist. Beautifully, freely, perfectly, even though there’s no specific geometric pattern. The robes are white. They exude peace, kindness, acceptance – of themselves, as well as of their interaction with all around them. The robes are graceful, and they do not judge. They just are. Especially important, of course, are the welcoming, outstretched hands.
This is Christ. He is not a ruler. Such would frankly be beneath Him. He is not a judge. He simply invites us to be the most love that we can be, after having shown us how. He does not condemn. He does not demand or command obedience. He does not wield power, except the power of love. He invites and welcomes, and rejoices with us as we discover the joy in ourselves. He views us, and loves us, in perfect perspective – fully cognizant of our eternal, divine nature – the nature that He realized and fulfilled, which realization elicits our worship, but does not demand it. Again, he simply invites…and welcomes…and encourages. Christ is patient beyond measure, largely because He knows the end from the beginning, and that because He is not bound by the perception of time.
Consider a scenario where I approach my wife with manipulation and control in my heart. Perhaps I have become convinced that we can be happier if she does everything my way, or that we must become more “righteous” if we are to be exalted. I set about trying to convince her that she is wrong (and thus less than me by comparison) and I am right, and that I am her leader, and she needs to obey me. I require righteousness at all times, and ridicule and criticize when she “sins” differently from me. (The irony here is that mine is by far the greater sin). What do we think would happen? I can assure you there would be shock, then tears, then…separation. We would no longer be one, because I introduced the 4 C’s into our relationship, and I basically cut that beautiful lily of the field off at the ground. The flower that I married would be plasticized, or laminated, forced into a fixed state,, but never, ever blooming in the full measure of her creation.
Consider next a scenario where I approach Christ with fear and judgment, justice and guilt in my heart. How can I be one with a being in whom there is no such thing? Let’s then extend that scenario to my approach to my neighbor. Perhaps we are one in that we all have fear and judgment, justice and guilt, comparison, competition, contention, and control in our hearts, but these things only insure that we will never be one, because we will always be separated – by the very traits that we have in common. Pretty ironic, wouldn’t you say?
Now, what to do? I can maybe strip myself of fear and guilt and the desire for justice and judgment, and thus hope to approach Christ in oneness. I can cherish my wife in all her glory, showing love and encouragement at all times and in all places, and we can experience the joy of a marriage of oneness. But how do I become one with all my neighbors? Well, this is where we seek to become like Christ and follow His example. We invite, and if the invitation is accepted, we welcome. But we do not judge if the invitation is not accepted, and we do not give up. We nurture patience beyond measure, having faith in Christ’s (our?) knowledge of the end from the beginning, and freeing ourselves from the bonds of time by focusing on the now. Of course, once again, “this state of oneness or partnership requires great faith, commitment, and trust – in each other…but also in the belief that we are eternal, divine beings and that Christ’s expansive micro-sermon about the lilies of the field is truth, even a promise. One must have faith that pursuing this oneness will yield a greater reward than attempting to control every aspect of the relationship in homage to our fears.”
And this is NOT easy!
But because this oneness is our nature, our destiny, the measure of our creation, and because the separation is a lie, an illusion, a temporary state, perpetuated by ourselves out of fear and unbelief…the day will eventually come when we will understand His true nature, which is our true nature. The day will come when we will know that “love is life, and it binds us all together”. And on that day…
…there will be peace.
My love to you all.