John’s Gospel: Reflections on Chapter 13 – 17, Part 5

Being one in God and Jesus through the “one another” passages

The “one another” passages provide another perspective on “oneness” as among fellow Christians —

(John 13:34-35 ESV)  34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Obviously enough, if we can love each other, we can also love God and Jesus as they love us. It’s entirely normal, in fact, for this to be a fully reciprocal relationship — except that we’ll never match God’s love for us.

(Rom 12:10b ESV)  Outdo one another in showing honor.

Just so, not only can we honor God, but God can honor us (Rom 2:10). How does God honor us? Well, by claiming us as his very own children and taking us to heaven. That’s some serious honor!

(Rom 15:7 ESV)  7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

We understand how God and Jesus welcome us, but we can also welcome Jesus (Rev 3:20) by admitting him into our lives.

(Gal 5:13 ESV)  13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

(Eph 5:21 ESV)  21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Of course, Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet amply illustrates God’s serving his people. As we come to appreciate the full meaning of Jesus’ actions, as well as his crucifixion, we begin to see our relationship with God in terms of mutual service and submission.

(Eph 4:32 ESV)  32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We understand that God forgives us. But sometimes we need to forgive God — not for sinning, but for allowing harm to come our way. We very often blame God and become angry with God when we suffer tragedy. It’s perfectly natural — and powerfully reflected in many of the Psalms. And so, to be united with God, we have to forgive him.

Now, our relationship with God and Jesus is not entirely reciprocal. We cannot bless God to nearly the same extent that he can bless us. We are not peers. God is truly greater than we.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we are capable of a surprising measure of reciprocity in our relationships with him. Just as we can enjoy being in his presence, I’m sure he can enjoy being in ours. Why not?

Just as we can sing God’s praise, God will sing ours!

(Zep 3:17 ESV)  17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

I’m looking forward to hearing that song!

In short, as we learn to serve, submit, sing to, honor, and even forgive God, we find that God does the same for us. Our relationship with God and Jesus is far more “one another” than we typically imagine.

To us, God and Jesus are so “other” that we can barely imagine who they are, much less imagine that they serve, submit, sing to, honor, and truly forgive us. Who ever imagined God singing our praises! It’s just hard to imagine being in such a relationship with the Lord of Host, God Almighty, King of Kings.

But John’s Gospel goes in the entirely opposite direction. God become flesh and dwelt among man so that man might know God. Jesus came to bring us knowledge of God — not “know” in the Nicene Creed sense of “essences” and such like, but “know” in the sense of having met someone — and grown to love them.

And God did this to draw us toward him.

God’s purpose in uniting with us

Why draw us? So that we’ll be in “right relationship” with him, the preachers like to say. But what is a right relationship? Well, it includes repentance and obedience, for sure, but right relationship also includes unity or oneness.

You see, we’re back to theosis. As we enter into reciprocal relationship with God and Jesus, we become more like them. Our service and submission are used by the Spirit to transform us into submissive servants — like Jesus. And as we become more like Jesus, it becomes easier to be in reciprocal relationship and to act as he acts and to see and feel and think as he does.

And so unity with God and Jesus happens.

It’s not about praying 40 days for a vision or being visited by an angel. It’s about being transformed by the Spirit into the image of Christ.

Just as we are united with our spouses at multiple levels and in multiple ways, so it is with our relationship with God. Thus, it’s not a magic 1-2-3 formula or an intense weekend in the mountains. It’s allowing yourself to be changed by the Spirit in profound ways.

God does most of the work, but it really helps if you yield to his work in your life. Because, if you trust God to reshape you as a potter shapes a pot, God will do it. You’ll become more and more like Jesus — and so be more and more united with your brothers and sisters — who are experiencing the very same thing — and so with Jesus and God.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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