The church lives for “we” not “me”

John 17:11-19


“You can do anything as long as you believe in yourself” was a common TV slogan when I was a child. There was something inside me that bristled at this. I would look around like “Are you really going to drink the Cool-aid?” Inside I would protest, “No, I believe in Jesus.” But yet it took its toll because I wanted to be something. I wanted to be great. Studies showed how unprepared for the real world my generation was because we were told that we would all become something amazing and reality shows that very few are famous, become the top, or succeed above the rest. Most of us are just average. So the corrective slogan is now, “You do you.” “Maybe you won’t be famous or a CEO of a fortune 500 company, but you can be you. You are awesome. So you do you. Do what you want. Be what you want. Make yourself happy.” Now people are beginning to realize that major downfall with that is that you being you is so lonely. If you do you, the only one left to do that with is you. The common and destructive notion in both is the little word “you.” Both create a whole bunch of “mes” and we realize how lonely that is and how much pressure there is for me to be me and for me to be great. But observe. All of the people who are isolated in trying to be me look for other mes who are like me. “I want community of mes. I found some who thought the same way and behave the same way I do. The way they spoke made so much sense.” We all experience this. “I could be me around the other mes who were of the same politics as me, religion as me, thoughts as me.” You don’t want to be left to you. All of us really desire some community of we. Where do you think we got that? There is one ultimate we: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Please come back in two weeks when we get to celebrate Trinity Sunday but here is a glimpse of the greatness. Even our one God is not a me, but a we. There is one God in three persons who all have their distinct work. Jesus prays a beautiful prayer expressing the we-ness that God has and desires that for us too. 11 Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. Jesus begins with the respectful address of Holy Father. He follows up with a bold demand for supernatural power of protection through the name. What would you think would come to the church with this power? What would be useful? The disciples could have used an invisibility cloak so they could slip through the threatening crowds like Jesus did. Or a temptation/devil detector. Or war horses and chariots to travel with speed and power to enhance the Jesus

message. Instead Jesus prays for unity. Jesus knew that when he left, that disunity would threaten the church. He knew that something was going to bother someone. He knew that someone was going to bother someone. He knew because it was already happening. The disciples were arguing over who was the greatest hours before this prayer. None wanted to

serve. All wanted to lead. Jesus knew that disagreements would arise. He knew that there would be different preferences and opinions. We all have preference and opinions. Each preference and option comes from a “me.” But Jesus’ goal was to create a group of “we.” Jesus knew that it would be hard to get a group of “mes” together and make them one “we.” The primary obstacle for a group of “we” is “me.” We are naturally “me” centered. All of our lives are hardwired on how “me” would do it. This threat was on the disciples too. While Jesus was around he kept them safe. He explains. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. He used that supernatural power protection of the name of the Father. All the disciples were kept safe. At this point, if I were one of the disciples, I might be wondering where Judas was. Jesus knew. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. All were kept safe except one. How? It wasn’t because Jesus wasn’t powerful enough. It wasn’t because Jesus wanted to destroy Judas. Judas denied the protection of Jesus. He decided that he didn’t want

what Jesus had to offer. He decided that his need to fill his pocket was more important. He decided that he would fall prey to the “me” attitude. God predicting this is different than God causing it to happen. The weather man predicts rain but he doesn’t cause it to happen. God knew in advance what would happen but he didn’t force Judas’ hand. Judas left

Jesus to serve himself and so was destroyed. That is the fate of a “me” attitude of a church.

This was not the fate Jesus has in mind for the rest. He continues. 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. Jesus wants joy to remain. Not sorrow or fear of destruction. But it doesn’t happen with his remaining in the world. Instead he leaves a power behind to fight against the “me” attitude of the church, which is the influence of the world. Jesus prayed while on the top of one side of the Kidron valley and was about to walk down into the darkness and up to

the other side into the garden. He looked beyond that garden down to the valley of his suffering and death where he would experience ultimate separation from the Father. Yet Jesus saw beyond that to his Father with open arms after the pain was done. That is the source of joy. The joy of your salvation pushes aside our me attitudes to make us a we.

14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. There is a reason why we are about “we” not “me.” It is because of the word of God. That is the real reason why the world hates us. We are not self-serving. We are “us” serving. Self-serving does not want Jesus. Self-serving does not

want the benefit of the others. But this is hard to do on our own. We need Jesus. So the world hates us. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. What would happen if they were removed? What would happen if all the believers were removed? If they didn’t remain, we wouldn’t be here. We would be destined for destruction. So if we don’t

remain, who else might be destined for destruction? We believe that there is a hell, and people go there: family members, friends, people in this very community. All with

the “me” attitude. If we were removed, who would tell them? Who would warn them? Certainly God can do what he wishes, but he chose to use us. He doesn’t leave us powerless. Jesus prays for protection but he doesn’t stop at just that. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. He sanctifies us, which means he sets us apart. He sets us aside from the “me” culture of the world to the “Jesus” culture of our church. We are unified in purpose on this Jesus and God’s truth. That is how we are sanctified. Not by the hymns we sing, not by the liturgy we follow, not by the prayers, not by the political affiliations, not by personal opinions; but we are sanctified by the truth. So we are united by that truth. We are saved by that truth.

Jesus continues. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. Jesus was sent. Thank God for that. He came and accomplished. He came and died. He came and saved. Jesus prayed and he accomplished. We unite. Even when our own “me” attitude strikes back again. We unite. How? Not because of us. Jesus finishes his prayer. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. We unite because we are sanctified by Christ. Imagine a church that turns aside all personal interest and bias. Imagine a church

that is not shaped by opinion. Imagine a church that is full of “we” and not “me”. Imagine a church that doesn’t just say we are unified around Christ, but actually is. We don’t have to imagine anymore. That is what Christ has fulfilled and will continue to do here at Grace. That’s the power of his truth.


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