Love is the best argument

Want to convince somebody of something? A friend, a spouse, a son or daughter? Maybe you’re absolutely right about something, and you know it. But they won’t listen to you. What can you do?

It wouldn’t hurt to start with love.

In the previous post, we saw that Jesus prayed not only for his disciples, but for their disciples. He prayed that they would be one just as he and the Father were one — because their unity would help point the world to God. As the prayer comes to its conclusion, the theme of unity for the sake of witness continues. But it’s also striking how love is the dominant note:

The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:22-26, NRSV)

Scholars differ as to the nature of the “glory” Jesus gives his disciples. In John, Jesus sometimes refers to his being glorified in his death, so there may be a hint here of their future martyrdom, or at least, of their eventual understanding of the glory of the cross. It’s not clear, however, how this would unify them (“so that they may be one”), or how it relates to Jesus’ reference to the glory they will see when they finally go to be with Jesus. Whatever may be the case, it’s clear that the disciples’ destinies are now tied with Jesus’ own — including whatever honor or dishonor comes with it. This is part of their unity.

But now Jesus grounds all of this in love. The disciples’ unity is meant to show the world that Jesus was in fact sent by the Father. How? Because it shows that the Father loves them just as he loved Jesus the Son, just as he loved him before the universe itself was created.

The world may not know God the Father, but the Son does. Jesus has in turn made God’s character known to the disciples, so that the Father’s love for Jesus would be in them.

In other words, what the world needs to see in the disciples is unity — the unity of a people who have been and continue to be loved well, and know it.

That’s the best argument of all.

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