“THE HOUSE BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD”
One writer has observed that of all the chapters in Scripture, John 17 is “the easiest in regard to words, the most profound in regard to ideas” (SDA BC 5:1051). The entire chapter is a prayer, the longest prayer of Jesus on record. He will be dead in less than twenty-four hours. But thinking little of Himself, the Savior pleads with God on behalf of His disciples: “‘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’” (John17:22, 23 NIV, emphasis supplied). Any idea of what “complete unity” would look like in the third millennial church? It surely can’t mean that we would all think alike. A quick perusal of the Book of Acts makes it abundantly clear that to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 NKJV) provides wide latitude for individual conviction and expression based on personal experience and spiritual giftedness. “Complete unity” can’t mean that we would all act alike either. The striking differences between the modus operandi of John vs Peter vs Paul vs Mary vs Timothy vs James, et al, is evidence enough that the Holy Spirit is the eager sponsor of “diversities of gifts” and “differences of ministries” and “diversities of activities” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). So how would Jesus’ prayer for “complete unity” among His followers be answered today? Whatever the answer, Jesus is unequivocal regarding the impression such unity makes on the world: “Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me” (v 24). His point? “Complete unity” within the community of faith provides compelling evidence that (1) Christ is the Sent One of God, and (2) the church is the sent one of Christ—“‘By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:35). “Complete unity” lived out through our radical, counter-cultural love for one another—how can the church have a more persuasive and contagious witness to the Savior than that! That’s why I shared with you last Sabbath my heart burden for this community of faith to reflect the strong love of racial unity as well. In this congregation, on this campus, and throughout the church in America Jesus’ prayer (which is an implicit promise) for “complete unity” must be answered. But rather than waiting for “them” to reflect it, you and I need to daily act on Christ’s calling for us to be a bridge, a catalyst, a change agent, a genuine unselfish friend to all, irrespective of color or character. Yes, people can petition for change, and communities can struggle to incarnate change within their own traditions, and leaders and denominations can wrestle through the sometimes extremely difficult task of organizational change for the sake of “complete unity.” But God’s Kingdom advances most convincingly through personal almost private acts of unscripted love, sacrificial love. Writing of such unscripted love, Sam Walter Foss makes the invitation well:
Let me live in my house by the side of the road— It’s here the race of men go by. They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong, Wise, foolish—so am I; Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat, Or hurl the cynic’s band? Let me live in my house by the side of the road And be a friend to man.