So here’s where I wind up.
All this points toward unity with God and Christ. And that points toward unity with each other.
Jesus’ washing of their feet shows the path toward unity with God. Take on the character of God by washing each other’s feet, and you’ll know God and so be united with him. Of course, washing each other’s feet will also lead toward unity with each other.
Love one another as Jesus loves us, and we’ll become very much like Jesus. And God. This will lead to unity with God and each other.
Accept and abide in the words of Jesus, the truth, the word, the Vine, Jesus himself — and we’ll be united with Jesus.
Obey Jesus’ commands — which are relational! — and we’ll be in right relationship with Jesus, God, and each other — obviously, the path to unity.
Glorify Jesus by seeing him for who he really is — both the Cosmic Christ who created the world and the humble human who took the form of a bond servant to wash feet and allow the Romans to crucify him. See his glory in both and see no contradiction — and then you’re on the path to theosis, because for us to be united with God, our fleshly, human, humble selves must somehow be joined with the Perfectly Holy, Almighty Lord of Hosts.
Persevere, realizing that God doesn’t give up on us nearly as quickly as we do, because the road toward God is not always easy. Count on God for strength and protection. Count on God to be thrilled to accept our repentance — to run toward us, anxious to forgive, as the father of the Prodigal Son did.
Get to know Jesus. Study all four Gospels not as rulebooks but as windows through which Jesus may be seen. Study the Prophets who tell us about Jesus. Study the Epistles that look back on Jesus and tell us about Jesus in heaven. But read them to learn about Jesus because to know Jesus is to know God.
Discipline yourself to conform your mission, your purpose, your vision, and your plans to God’s mission, purpose, vision, and plans revealed through Jesus. Do this in community within your congregation. Blend your vision with the congregation’s Christ-centered vision.
Work to help your leaders blend the congregation’s vision with the visions given by God to other churches in town. Find a city-wide vision, purpose, mission, and plan.
Count on the Spirit to encourage, comfort, support, motivate, and help all your efforts to know, abide in, and become like Jesus. Yield to the Spirit as the Spirit finds resonance within your Christ-shaped heart and moves you to closer union with God and your fellow Christians.
Never, ever leave the Vine. Cling to Jesus for nourishment and growth. Submit to God’s discipline without complaint. After all, if Jesus is the Vine and you’re one of its branches, you’re already united with Jesus and with the other branches. Maybe you just need to notice that you’re already attached and who your neighbors on the Vine really are.
The hatred of the world and persecution can be mild or horrifyingly terrible. Either way, the hatred demonstrates that you are attached to the Vine, separates you from what is not Christ-like, and pushes you closer to Jesus. After all, why seek the praise of those who hate you when Jesus loves you and is anxious to sing your praises?
Find joy in Jesus by seeing the world as he sees it. See his victories and so celebrate them. See the weakest and most hated members of society as Jesus sees them — as beloved members of his creation, desperately in need of your love. As you see the world through Jesus-formed eyes, you’ll find the joy that motivated him to give up everything for us — as little as you deserve it. And so you become more united with Jesus.
In sharing Jesus’ joy, you become his friend. Not a mere servant. Not a mere student. You share in a special, intimate, personal relationship with a being who is both utterly divine and utterly human. Let him show you the divine side of your nature — a new nature given you by the Spirit that seems like a stranger to most of us.
Accept your new dual nature, part flesh and part Spirit, living partly on earth and partly in heaven — very much like Jesus. Let Jesus show you how to live in two planes at once, being both in the world and not of this world.
And do all this in community. Jesus is a being whose very nature is to exist in community with God and the Spirit in a way that is incomprehensible to our mortal minds. And yet we get this much: to be like Jesus is to live in community, to not be self-reliant, not an individual merely, not an island.
As we grow into Jesus in community, others join us in our journey toward Jesus. This is not an individual, hiding-in-your-closet sort of thing. It’s done in the open with others who are also pursuing Jesus.
Neither is this merely about staring at your naval and thinking holy thoughts. To be like Jesus is to do like Jesus. You must do his works, just as he does the works of God. You must teach the truth. You must labor in his kingdom. You must bear fruit. You should be worth your place on the Vine because you produce sweet, savory fruit for the Vine Dresser.
This is not mere mysticism. Jesus is not found in a monastery. He’s found among the lame, the blind, and the Samaritans. He might even be found debating the Pharisees or cleansing a temple somewhere. But he won’t be found entirely inside you. He’s there, but he’s not only there.
Mere introspection and individual disciplines won’t get the job done because you cannot unite with other Christians through solitude and quiet study. You have to spend some time with others. You can’t further God’s mission in your closet.
You see, it all ties together. It all points toward unity with God, Jesus, and each other. It’s not a linear process. It’s a multi-dimensional process. After all, we’re multi-dimensional beings — and God wants to be united with all of us, at all level, in all facets.
Therefore, Jesus weaves a tapestry — he paints a portrait of himself and of each one us — showing us God, himself, and the path to unity.