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Wide Open Spaces: Beyond Paint-by-Number Christianity by Jim Palmer



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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Jim Palmer

Friday, November 26

I'm praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
—John 17:20-21


A while ago I saw a film titled, What the Bleep Do We Know!? One of the main themes of the movie is the notion of oneness. According to the film, all things and people are “one” and our sense of individual identity is an illusion. 

The film maintains that we are all part of one fabric of reality and our individual selves are nothing more than wave particle manifestations. In reality there is no actual separateness, only a perceived one. Admittedly, for some people this is pretty out there.

Jesus raises the notion of oneness in various places including John 17. I’m starting to wonder if Jesus’ notion of oneness is more significant than what I’ve come up with thus far, which has mostly been a sort of can’t-we-just-all-get-along kind of thing. 

Not too long ago I was in a conversation with someone who mentioned that they were in the process of “starting a church.” Another person replied that since Jesus had already started one, why the need to start another?

They have a point. What logic is there to be standing at the beach peering out into the water and deciding, “I think I’ll start an ocean”? Maybe the body of Christ on earth is like an ocean, and at any given moment and any given place, that body comes together as a wave of love or service or peace or compassion or community or some manifestation of the kingdom of God.

There already is a “church.” Jesus started it and is the head of it. What’s left to be seen is how the Spirit is stirring the waters, and the ripple effects of those waves. Isn’t it an illusion to call part of the ocean Catholic or Baptist or Presbyterian or Episcopal…or purpose-driven or seeker-targeted or emergent or organic…or high church or home church or...? Isn’t it all water? Or, if Christ is the head, isn’t it all the body of Christ?

Why can’t we all agree that we each have something to teach and something to learn, and that none of us have arrived or has a corner on the truth? I’m not suggesting that denominational distinctions or different forms or styles of church are meaningless. 

To me there is a beauty in the diversity, but why can’t it all be more porous, related, shared and connected? Jesus was saying that when our oneness is expressed, it awakens others to the reality of God's kingdom. Maybe we need to focus on what we all most deeply share in common.

It’s sad that religion often turns God into a wedge that divides us. Recently I came across these words of Matthew Kelty about Thomas Merton, "He said what he thought and did what he thought should be done, and that was all there was to it. And what he said and what he did was rooted in love for God and man.”

The scriptures say “God is love.” Love is universally accepted as a reality of God; let’s begin by seeking oneness on the grounds of love.

God, let my life today be grounded in love for you and humankind. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.