In preparing for the joys of Christmas during our brief return to the winter wonderland of Wisconsin, my wife and I read John 17 and contemplated the ministry of the Messiah and His mission to rescue mankind. As we read the Lord’s great Intercessory Prayer, we marveled at how clear Christ’s words were regarding unity and His relationship with the Father. To begin with, the very act of worshipful prayer tells us much of that relationship. He also refers to His premortal relationship with the Father:
words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father,
the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
And regarding His disciples and those who would accept Him and follow Him as Savior and Redeemer, He prayed:
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that
they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that
the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou
hast loved me.
I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am;
that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou
lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love
wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
From my LDS perspective, I often wonder how did so much misunderstanding arise in debates centuries later about these relationships and the unity of God, which here is held up as the kind of unity Christians should achieve? Not becoming one Being, but united beings, one in purpose and intent. Of course, I recognize that many fellow Christians fully accept the declarations of the creeds arising from those debates, and while we are comfortable with much stated therein, we feel that the earliest Christians understood the unity of Christ with the Father to be a unity in heart and purpose shared between two Beings, between the Father and the Son.
When we read the touching words of how God sent and gave His only begotten Son in John 3:16, in my opinion that loving, poignant sacrifice is best understood as making reference to the love a father naturally has for a son, an analogy that only makes sense to me if they are distinct beings. Yes, of course others will read this differently.
In any case, may we contemplate the teachings of the scriptures about our relationship to Christ, and His relationship to the Father, and pursue paths to help us to become more fully one in them.