by Pastor Bryan Jarrett
In John 17, the gospel writer gives us an incredible glimpse into the prayer life of Jesus. When we peak through that window, we actually find him praying for us. I challenge you to take some time to reexamine that prayer in detail, but for now let me call your attention to these verses:
John 17:20-21 NLT
20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”
His heart’s desire is that there be a deep relational connection and community among His people. He even says that this “oneness” and community is the way the world will actually believe that He was sent by the Father. The greatest defense of the Christian faith and the deity of Jesus is revealed in the way we interact with each other as Christ followers. When the church doesn’t operate as Jesus asked it too, our lack of community can be the greatest harm to the Christian faith and what people believe about Jesus.
Because this community among His family is so important, let it challenge you to think differently about the way people come into this family. Over the years, we have thrown around the word “converts” and “conversion” to describe people who come to Christ. At least for me, those words illicit the image of crusaders coercing pagans to convert or else. There is an “ickiness” attached to those words.
Yes, there’s nothing more beautiful than a change of heart that results in a change of life. The Bible calls it being “born again”. The thought that our lives can be different in the blink of an eye and beautifully re-crafted by grace throughout the course of our lives is remarkable. But we minimize the beauty of what has happened if we simply see it as the “conversion” and the people involved as “converts”. Because far too many people view it this way, they think it’s their job to make converts and they force unnatural conversations and enter into awkwardly aggressive attempts to “wins souls”.
We must remember that Jesus had no intention to start a new religion for which He would be seeking “converts”. It was quite the opposite. He came to start a coup against the religious establishment of His day by stripping away much of the religiosity and calling people to a real relationship with the Father. He was and is passionate about bringing people into relationship with God and each other as a family.
When you consider the joy of being a part of the family of God, you stop thinking about it religiously and stop viewing people as pagans to be “converted”. Instead, you see them as a vital part of God’s creation that has been estranged from the family’s table. As a result, you choose to live your life in such a way that they are drawn toward Christian community and nurtured toward the table where the Father has been saving them a seat. If we keep trying to “convert,” we will come off as crusaders trying to forcefully coerce people into some religious change. However, when we simply love each other in community and live like we are a part of a big family, we convey the gospels message of adoption and become more like brothers and sisters than religious zealots.