I’ve been off lately. Unsettled. Between COVID-19, multiple health issues in our extended family, and my oldest daughter’s fast approaching wedding, I have not felt as grounded as a sometimes do. Unfortunately, my emotions tend to come out sideways and in ways that I do not intend. Consistent with my personality style, when I am feeling off-center, I tend to resort to anger–toward myself, others, and the universe. I am usually too constrained for it to come out as rage. Rather, it comes out as irritation, resentment, audible sighs, or a critical spirit. My friend and pastor had the courage to point this out to me recently and it has been eye opening.

Maybe you’ve felt unsettled too. The idea that we are living in the midst of a pandemic is unsettling. Perhaps like me, the churning waters within and without lead to anger. Maybe for you, it comes out as fear, flattery, or withdrawal. Pay attention to those emotional responses. They are great teachers if we will listen.

Running parallel to my unsettledness has been a desire to understand what it looks like to love well in the midst of chaos. Specifically, what does it look like to love up, down, in, and out? I haven’t come to any firm conclusions, but I do have a lot of questions. How do I understand what it looks like to love God and experience God’s love for me when I feel unsteady? How can I use this time to grow in self-knowledge and self-compassion? What passions arise within me and how well do they align with who I want to be? How do I grow in grace toward others when we are encouraged to keep our distance or when we observe them behaving in obviously self-centered ways? How do I understand my role as a global citizen and a steward of creation? How can I foster truth, goodness, and beauty when so much seems broken?

Again, I don’t have clear answers, but these are the sorts of things I think about. Maybe you are too. It is good and important for us to consider how to be beacons of light when so much seems dark.

John 17:26

“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.”-John 17:26

Jesus’s betrayal and crucifixion were immanent, yet notice what Jesus said: “…I will continue to make your name known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them.” He was about to face unimaginable suffering, yet his words still reflected the deepest possible affection for his friends.

Jesus wants us to see, in every conceivable way, that God is not only loving, but that God is love itself. The apostle John, who wrote down these words, also wrote in one of his letters to the church, “Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8).

Every single thing that God has done throughout eternity has been an act of divine love. The creation of the world, his wrath against evil, and the death of his Son were all acts of great love, just as his ongoing redemption of the world is love.

Jesus, you came and showed the way of love and called us into your higher story, but so often I resist. I live a mundane, small life. Open my eyes that I might fathom the heights and depths and lengths of your love and that no matter where I go, I am in you. Amen.

John 17:25

“O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.”-John 17:25

People have a lot of ideas about God. Through the centuries, people and cultures have claimed unique knowledge of God. Generation after generation has interpreted scripture to their own ends. The Pharisees had clear ideas about who God was and they used scripture to back up their theology. They stressed the importance of lineage and of impeccable law keeping, but their ideas emerged from their fallen understanding of God and his word.

Over time, people have suggested that there is definitive biblical support for salvation by works, for slavery, for racial superiority, and for American exceptionalism, yet all of these viewpoints are distortions of the truth. Jesus told his followers that he knows the Father, “the righteous one,” the only one who is right and true. He also said that this world does not know God. We may believe that our ideas about God are shaped by an untainted understanding of scripture, but they are also influenced by our own cultures, biases, and proclivities. Despite our best intentions, our understandings of God this side of heaven will always be limited. Even the disciples, who glimpsed the true nature God in Jesus, had imperfect knowledge. In light of our limitations, humility is a necessary virtue.

Jesus, you say that in seeing you, I see the Father, but I confess that I am often gazing into a looking glass of my own making. Help me to see beyond my distortions, biases, and proclivities to your true heart, that I might worship the real you and not some facsimile of my own making. Amen.

John 17:23

“I in them and you in me. That they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”-John 17:23

Western individualism can lead to the impression that we are wholly separate from God and one another. We may give lip service to Jesus’s words that his Spirit dwells within us, but I wonder how often we live inside of that reality. A core theme of Jesus’s high priestly prayer in John 17 is oneness. He prayed about the mutual indwelling of Father and Son, but he also prayed for the unity of his followers. Pursuing unity does not mean that we are supposed to sacrifice our identities and extinguish what makes us unique. Rather, our individual uniqueness contributes to the beauty of a colorful mosaic. In a mosaic, what alone appears to be only a broken shard of glass is an essential element of a larger, unified whole that reflects the beauty and glory of a relational God.

Jesus, what a high and holy calling! You prayed that your church would be “perfectly one.” I confess that the realization of your prayer seems impossible as I look at the world and the church. Lead me out of discouragement and into a hope that your people can love one another so well that the world cannot help but notice. Amen.

John 17:22

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one.”-John 17:22

One of the definitions of glory in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is “great beauty and splendor,” which captures Jesus’s heart in his high priestly prayer. Jesus said to the Father, “The glory that you have given to me I have given to them.” The Father glorified the Son and the Son glorified the disciples, but not because they were praiseworthy. Rather, his glory, what I earlier referred to as the “relational glory of God”, was given to us so that we would reflect the beauty and splendor of Christ-like love. Our ability to love one another in the same way that Jesus has loved us shines a glorious light upon a watching world. Love and oneness, grounded in Jesus, reflect Trinitarian glory.

Jesus, when I think of the word glory, I am comfortable with it being applied to you and even to your creation, but when I think that I too was designed to reflect your glory, it makes me nervous for some reason. Help me to revel in the glory in loving others knowing that it is a reflection of Trinitarian glory. Amen.

John 17:24

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”-John 17:24

Jesus was never burdened by his disciples. He did not merely tolerate doubting Thomas or impetuous Peter, he desired to be with them and with you and me. In spite of your sinfulness, Jesus wants to be you too. Whether you are feeling shame, fear, doubt, or sadness, Jesus desires your company.

When we are with Jesus, we are exposed to his beauty and glory, which flows from the Father. His presence is transformative. Ray Ortlund once said, “Stare at the glory of God until you see it” (2009). When we come to Jesus in the fullness of his splendor, he changes us. He is the embodiment of love and because of our union with him, we too are beloved.

As we have already seen, the Father, Son, and Spirit have always existed in perfect love with one another. There is no hint of jealousy or self-centeredness. They are constantly highlighting the glory of the others. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “Eternal life is like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time — the before and after — no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy” (2007). I love the image of “an ocean of infinite love,” but I also imagine Trinitarian love as a conflux, which is the place where rivers join. The Trinity is the never-ending flow of love into one another. In heaven, we will live within love’s flow for all eternity.

Jesus, the thought of being with you where you are is overwhelming. There is nothing I can imagine that would be more glorious. Help me to know that because of all you have done for me, I am embraced as the Beloved. Amen.

John 17:21

“That they all may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”-John 17:21

Earlier, Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one just as the Father and Son are one. Once again, he prayed that his followers would reflect Trinitarian oneness. Even though we are unique individuals, he wanted us to under-stand that we are all a part of one another. Jesus prayed for our unity “so that the world may believe.” God’s word is important to our testimony, but the relationships between Jesus’s followers are the hinge-pin upon which our testimony depends. If we share Bible verses with people, but we do so from a place of arrogance or judgment, we do more damage than good for God’s kingdom.

Sadly, the church today is fractured into a billion pieces. There are thousands of denominations and millions of opinions. We have lost sight of Jesus’s mission of love and unity. Rather than seeking to love one another, we delight in airing our opinions, taking sides, and belittling others.

Jesus, you prayed for me in the upper room. I am one of those who believe through the ongoing testimony of your saints, but I confess that I do not always seek unity. I put myself and my comfort first. Forgive me for my self-centeredness, and lead me to love as you have loved me in the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

John 17:20

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”-John 17:20

Jesus prayed for you and me. Isn’t that remarkable? If you have put your faith in Christ, you are one of those who “believe through their word.” Imagine how different the world would be if Jesus had not commissioned those 11 men to continue proclaiming the message of the kingdom of God. Imagine if his prayers had no real effect. Imagine if his disciples figured, “Well he’s gone, now I can go back to my old life.” Our world would be radically different. But Jesus did pray that we would believe his message in this place and time and it was passed along by those very first hearers of the gospel. He prayed that his message would get inside of us and that we continue to proclaim his message of grace.

Jesus, I take it for granted that you pray for me. I am one of those you prayed for 2000 years ago and you still pray for me now. Help me to live in that reality with joy and gladness. Amen.

John 17:18-19

“As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they may be sanctified in the truth.”-John 17:18-19

Our identities are formed by many parts. As I wrote earlier, we are those who are loved of God. We are God’s children, his treasured possession, and a part of the community of faith. We belong to the body of Christ. We are also the “sent ones,” ambassadors of the good news. Jesus was also a “sent one,” leaving heaven for earth as a light of hope and savior of the world. He commissioned us to continue carrying his light, living lives of service, self-sacrifice, and love. As we follow him on the path of sacrificial love, we demonstrate relational holiness. He came in love so that we might go out in love.

Jesus, I am aware of my self-centeredness every day, but you came to make a way for me to become more like you. Remind me that I am a “sent one” and a beacon of your love. Amen

John 17:17

“Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.”-John 17:17

To be sanctified means to be set apart, made holy, or purified. Jesus asked the Father to purify the disciples, making them holy according to his word. As believers, we are remade into God’s holy light bearers by knowing what God says about us. We must daily recollect who we are and who we have been called to be. Here are some truths about us:

We are God’s beloved children.

We are those in whom Christ dwells.

We are saints, and we are sinners.

We are broken, and we are beloved.

We are God’s treasured possession.

Do you want to grow in holiness? Remember who you are. Jesus did not tell the disciples that they would be sanctified by doing good works or belonging to right church. We are sanctified according to his word, which comes through Jesus.

Jesus, I claim to value sanctification, but it is so easy for me to get off track. Help me to remember each day that your holiness flows in me by your Spirit, and that my sanctification comes not through my good works, but through believing the gospel. Amen.