Jesus made a curious statement in John 17:22-23. He was struggling under the impending weight of human history’s sin. But He paused, and asked His Father to help us do something very specific. He asked the Father to help us love.
Theologically it would seem the only appropriate end of that love would be himself. We would expect Jesus to ask Father God to help those who follow Him to love Him more. Yet Jesus casts his prayer in a profoundly different direction. He prayed to His Father to help His followers love each other in exactly the same way that the Father loves Jesus and Jesus loves the Father. Jesus then tells us why He prayed this...so that the world (those without relationship with Jesus) would know that Jesus was who He said He was – the Son of God. One could argue that Jesus’ primary apologetic for the Christian faith throughout history rests on how we loved one another.
Jesus prayed that our relationships with other followers of Jesus would hold some innate wonder for the world. So much so, that an unbeliever, when encountering the love between us, would exclaim, “Watching you relate with each other, now I know that Jesus is real”.
And no prayer of Jesus goes unanswered.
I have realized over time that there must be a latent power that God the Father has placed within the community of those who love and follow Him. There is, as Paul said, a fragrant aroma that accompanies our honest, vulnerable, commitment to one another. The world was meant to see this.
The second realization that has hit me has been the location that this fragrance is released and has its most power is in the midst of friendship. Friendship is the window through which the world can see Jesus in us. There may be no more evangelistic enterprise than befriending someone who doesn’t know God and inviting them to observe our friendship with other followers of Jesus.
Recently I invited a neighbor and his family who didn’t have relationship with Jesus to join us and some Christian friends at our house for a Christmas advent dinner. His kids played with my kids. It was chaotic and fun. Before we sat for dinner, I took 30 seconds and read a scripture and told the story of Jesus being the light of the world. We turned the lights down and lit a single candle as we proclaimed Jesus was the light of the world. The time was relaxed, joyful and peaceful. The guests simply observed.
Not long after, my neighbor came to me and asked if it would be OK if he joined my small group at Church even though he didn’t believe in the Jesus stuff yet. I told him we often pray for friends who don’t know Jesus yet at our small group, but if that didn’t make him uncomfortable, we would love to have him and his family. He came and hasn’t left. I’ve seen this pattern repeated many times in my own neighborhood. Several other neighbors, after observing the way our Christian community relates, have joined us and started reading the Scriptures with us to discover who Jesus is.
How could our family holiday celebrations create moments of transformation?
Jesus came as the light of the world, and then before leaving said to us, “now you are the light of the world...don't hide your light!” Jesus expects a warm glowing light and a vibrant, authentic life resting in the midst of Christian community.
So let's let our light shine!
Norman Community Church
New Heavens, New Earth
(written as a gift to SALLT)
Music and Lyrics by:
©2015 Kyle Dillingham, LLC