It’s slightly mind-boggling to think that the Christian God, trinitarian, three-in-one, has been in eternal community. A couple weekends ago at Verge’s Midwest Leader Advance our focus was on developing kingdom community, the foundation of which is the God who created humanity in his image – crafted to function in connection with others of our kind.
As he nears his crucifixion Jesus shares much of significance with his twelve closest disciples in John 14-18, and there are some incredible, counter intuitive insights into what makes (or breaks) Kingdom community. During the first session of Leader Advance we spent some time in John 17:20-26 uncovering three of these keys. If you weren’t at Leader Advance hopefully this recap is helpful to you.
“My prayer is not for them alone. 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.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Kingdom Community Requires Receiving
“ 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”
The foundation of everything in the Kingdom of God is the humility to receive the gift that the Father has given in Christ. Here in this prayer shortly before his murder, Jesus declares that “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” The glory that Jesus gives from his Father is the means of one-ness for those who follow him, but it requires that we be able to receive. We can’t have community if we insist on staying self-sufficient. It is the realization that we are deeply in need of our good God’s gifts that opens the doorway to deep relationships.
This principle plays out on a human level as well. Heaven’s kind of relationships cannot happen unless all who are a part of the community are willing to receive from all others. There’s no room for one-way streets. The richest community member must acknowledge that they have things to learn and receive from the poorest; the most mature believer that they can be taught by the newest.
Kingdom Community Requires Glory-Giving
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one
Our God’s glory is incredibly counter intuitive. As He showed through the cross, it is in pouring out and giving of himself that God’s glory is most brilliant. His sacrificial love for the sake of others reveals the essence of his beauty, so much so that Jesus is able to say here that he has given his followers the same glory that the Father had given him.
Stop and think about that for a moment. How much of His glory did the Father give to the Son? All of it. Scripture makes clear that Jesus was God; that his glory was God’s glory. Here he is saying that he’s giving that same glory to his followers. In Jesus God gives his brilliance to his followers, “that they may be one.”
The biblical terms for glory, doksa and kabo both point to glory as the intrinsic worth or essence of a being. The Apostle Paul expands this term to apply to created beings as well as God himself in 1 Corinthians 15, saying,
“There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” (v.40-41)
My friends, you have a kind of glory that’s been placed in you by God. It’s not enough for us to simply receive the glory that is given to us. As Jesus demonstrates, the glory of God is revealed in the giving. If we are to have Kingdom community we must become proficient at giving of the glory that we have been given. We must give of ourselves by sharing our stories in all their gritty detail, sharing our lives in the truest forms of discipleship, and sharing our authority and responsibility.
Kingdom Community Requires Knowing and Naming
“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
According to Jesus when we know the name of the Father we are filled with the love that the Father has for the Son. Biblically, names have significant meaning and reveal much about the character of the one who is named. To know the name of someone is to know who they truly are – their character and identity.
The first question we must ask ourselves is, are we listening to Jesus as he continues to make known the Father to us? Are we hearing what he is speaking, or have we blocked ourselves off and begun to ignore the things about the Father that we find inconvenient, difficult, or uncomfortable? To the extent that we stop listening to Jesus making known the Father to us, we will be unable to receive or give the love that Jesus has for us.
The second question is, are we knowing and naming those who are in community with us? Do we know their stories and how God has created them? Are we naming them for who God is calling them to be, or simply content with how things are? The purpose of Jesus’ “making known” the Father’s name is “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” The knowing is meant to lead to a change in the knower’s life. If our communities are growing in knowledge about each other and God but not changing their lives, something is missing.
To have community we must know each other deeply and call (or name) each other to be who we truly are in Christ.
Three keys to kingdom community; receiving glory, giving glory, and knowing and naming. Each of these things are have been done by the Father, the Son, and the Spirit since eternity past. Now, through Christ, we are invited into the dance and can participate in the kind of community that God created humanity for. May we do so, and in doing so bring light to this lonely world.