This Sunday, I’d like to reflect on oneness. I’m going to reflect on three scripture passages from three different places, and I’d like to understand, uh, what it means to be a one in Christ and how that can be different from the oneness in the world. The first passage that I’m going to reflect on is from John, Mina read it beautifully and we are going to reflect on that. If you see the background of that passage, that was like Jesus’ deathbed, a prayer just before he died. That was Jesus’ last prayer for the world. You can see a Jesus’ desire. After 33 years of ministry, after life on earth, and that was the prayer that he was wanting to leave behind for the people to hear and listen and take. Take it seriously.
That is the context of that prayer. And when you look at it, verse 20, it says, “I ask not only on behalf of this,” I asked – that means Jesus prayed. Then from verse 21 to 23, when you read it carefully every verse, he says this phrase, “They may all be one.” Every verse, 21, 22, to 23, “As we are one, I pray that they also may be one.” And in the last verse, Jesus added ‘completely’ to emphasize the oneness, “So that they may completely be one.” That was what Jesus wanted for the world. He wanted to see the unity. How appropriate that prayer is for all of us. We Christians should take that prayer very seriously, and we should also do that prayer. As you look at the world, it is fragmented, divided, you name it. For all reasons, we are living in a world that is very fragmented.
A Revolutionary Vision
After Jesus prayed that, a few years later, there was a person who took on the torch of Jesus Christ and carried on that vision of Jesus Christ in his life. And his name is Saint Paul. Saint Paul also prayed and worked for the unity, the oneness of humanity. And he talked about oneness a little bit more in detail than what Jesus prayed for. This is what he said, “There is no longer Jew or a Greek. There is no longer slave or free. There is no longer male and the female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” That is the crux of Paul’s theology. That is the core of Paul that tried to established in this world. Jews and Greeks? They did not even eat together. Slaves could never be one with the free. Women were not considered as an equal partner. During Paul’s time, women will like properties. As a matter of fact, Jewish people prayed this prayer every morning at that time, and that prayer goes like this: “Thank you God for not making me a gentile, not making me a slave and not making me a woman.” That was what Jewish people prayed every morning. So some scholars said that Paul was seeing there was neither male nor female in the context of that prayer. That prayer was taken for granted at that time. Paul saw the vision that in Christ, they may all become one. He saw the vision of equal partnership, men and women who are equal partners.
In the last scripture passage I’d like to look at is from the Old Testament, Genesis. That was also the vision of writer of Genesis. The Genesis writer thought that this vision was in God’s heart when he created this world. When Eve was created, Adam finally cried out, “This at last is born of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Complete oneness Adam experienced. There is no division. There is no hierarchy. “Your bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.” Right from the beginning of creation, God had this vision. That was the order of creation. That’s what God wanted right from the first place, that all become one. So, being one is mandated by the Bible. Being one is a beautiful vision.
But it is a radical vision. It is a dangerous vision. Many people got killed because of that vision. Jesus was killed, St Paul was killed, and in modern days, so many people got killed because they preached the message of oneness. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. It’s a dangerous vision. Especially in the world, there are people who are mostly interested in dominating, conquering, and controlling. That vision is a very dangerous vision. To them, being one is making others under their power, whether it’s a religious power, political power, financial power or gender power, whatever that is, to them, being one is making others under their power and their control. The only way they know about achieving oneness is by conquering the weaker ones.
St. Paul & His Concept
Jesus’ idea of oneness was very, very different. Jesus emptied himself to be one with us. Jesus was completely stripped of his power on the cross to make all of us one with God and one with each other. Paul’s idea of oneness was a challenge to the Roman and Jewish system where the free control, the slave Jews and gentiles did not associate with each other, and men dominated women. So Paul’s message of oneness was a challenge to that establishment of that system. American people said loud and clear through this election, we don’t want establishment anymore. We are sick and tired of establishment having all the power. I think Bernie Sanders saw it right when he said after the election result that Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment, economics, establishment politics, and establishment media. When the top 10th of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top one percent, it is impossible to be one. Establishment rules dictates and dominates, and so American people did not like that. But there is an evil that we need to name though. Donald Trump. Any speech he used had anti-establishment sentiments, but his speeches also echoed the racist and sexist sentiment in America. If a woman has to submit to a man to be one, then that is not true oneness. To be one, we need to understand the power we have, and we should share that power with others.
St. Paul said “The gentiles do not have to follow the way of the Jewish life to be one with them.” So St. Paul said, “Don’t be circumcised. You don’t need to keep the dietary rule. You can never be one by keeping the law. Only in Christ you can be one.” Radical message. We are all equal partners in Christ. Today is Women’s Sunday. The reason we have Women’s Sunday is because women’s leadership has not been very well recognized. Even though we are equal partners, often women’s ministry was limited to a certain area. We have to recognize the gifts of the people regardless of the gender in order to serve. We have to recognize the faith of a person rather than the gender of a person in order to recognize them as leaders of the church. There is no hierarchy between men and women. When Adam said, “Alas you are born on my bones and flesh of my flesh,” there no hierarchy, only complete oneness. We believe that we are one in Christ.
Paul received tremendous persecution, as we studied in Galatians. He received tremendous persecution from the establishment, from the Roman system and from the Jewish system. From both sides, he received tremendous persecution and ultimately killed because he saw a wonderful vision in Christ. In Christ, everyone is equal. Everyone is worthy and precious. How could you dare or ever say 2000 years ago, that in Christ, there is no room for the power to control, conquer, and dominate. In Christ, we submit to each other in love and respect. That is the gospel. That is the gospel. Jesus prayed for that. If we believe that, then we have to work on that instead of following the pattern of the world, where the powerful subjugates the weak. That is not the message that we believe in. Paul’s message was very much an anti-establishment message, but his message was also a radical message overcoming the racial, sexual, and class boundaries. When only recently the slavery was abolished, but Paul said there is no longer slaves or the free. When only 50 years ago – this year is the 50th anniversary of women’s ordination – when only 50 years ago, the Presbyterian church in Canada passed the woman ordination, but Paul said there is no longer male and female. Where did he get that idea? Where did he get that idea of equality? Two thousand years ago? I believe there’s a spirit. I believe this God who gave that idea.
Moral of the Story
On Thursday, I met two relatively young people and we stayed until 10:30/11, I’m not sure, talking about this world and about life, about faith, about being a Christian. They needed to let out and sought and understand this world after the shocking result of the US election. One person is in finance. So I asked him, “How are you doing? How’s your field in finance doing?” And he said, “Reverend, I’m scared. I’m scared not for my job. I’m not scared for the finances. I’m scared for humanity.” And we were talking about being a Christian. Being a Christian is not about having power, but about sharing the power. You can say that Jesus had the most powerful power. He had the divine power, and yet he gave all that up and died on the cross. Powerlessly. What is the message? Power can never make us one. Power can never make the humanity one. Only when we start sharing the power we have with the powerless in love, we can be one. Yes, there is a life of power, but there is also a life of love. And the life of love is a life Jesus preached, Paul preached. I hope that we hear the message loud and clear – what we need to do with our lives.