Simple as A B C
One notable feature of John’s writings is his use of equivalencies, of simple logical strands like A=B, A=C, B=C. Or you might find A=B, but -A ≠ B. These equations are virtually mathematical in their simplicity, and can be mercilessly black and white. Here are some familiar verses from I John.
- He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. I John 5:12 (NASB)
- We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever doesnotlove abides in death. I John 3:14 (ESV)
- Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. I John 4:8 (ESV )
- If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. I John 4:20 (ESV)
One such set of “mathematical” equations appear in John 17, which is part of one of Jesus’ last prayers for his followers.
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 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. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23 (ESV)
The following phrases are from John 17:20a. Jesus is talking to his Father. I have included four renderings of the Greek word kathos (Strongs 2531) since it is far too easy to glide over the words “just as” or “as” which are common renderings.
Jesus prays that we would be “one” “corresponding exactly to the degree that” he is in the Father and the Father is in him. Our being one is equivalent to Jesus being in the Father and the Father being in Jesus. John 17: 21b-22 specifically extends the “in” part of the equation to include us, that’s you and me.
- May they also be in us.
- They may be one as we are one.
- I in them and you in me.
- They may be brought to complete unity.
We are in the Father and the Son, our one-ness is to be like the one-ness of the Father and Jesus, Jesus is in us and the Father is in Jesus in order that we come to complete unity. The most literal meanings of en (ἐν) are “inside” and “within” (Strongs 1722). Jesus is within/inside the Father, and the Father is within/inside Jesus. Together we are inside/within the Father and Jesus. Jesus is within/inside us, and the Father is within/inside Jesus, therefore the both Jesus and the Father are within/inside us. Perfect unity is expressed by the reality of two entities or people being within/inside one another. Our presence within/inside Jesus and the Father is a spiritual reality.
Our goal is complete unity, as both a spiritual reality and a visible reality seen in love.
What is not a discernible reality is our complete unity and perfect love for one another. Verse 23 describes the results of our spiritual union with God and with one another. Our perfect unity is the evidence to the world that the Father sent Jesus, and loved us even as the Father loved Jesus.
Many people are concerned with spreading good news, the love of Jesus. In this passage we are told twice (verses 21 and 23) that our transcendent unity and love for one another is the evidence the world needs.
It is incumbent upon all of us to examine our thoughts, words, and conduct to see where we violate the Royal Law of Love (James 2:8) with regard to anyone. To whatever degree we are unwilling or unable to love others, it is to that degree that as individuals or as groups interfere with the incarnation of God’s perfect love and unity with humanity.
This is obviously not the final word on this topic. Corollary realities like justice, diversity, and truth intrude like olive branches, arrows, and slogans on a single coin. I will nevertheless present more materials from John, Paul, Jesus, and others to describe an “underrepresented truth” from the Greek scriptures.
To Read More in this Series, click on The Bride of Christ is God.