Ecumenism: “…that they may all be one..”
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you sent Me.” (John 17:21, NASB)
John 17 is Jesus’ longest recorded prayer. He prayed for Himself (1-5), for the disciples (6-9), and for all believers (20-26). The prayer anticipates the success of the disciples’ mission to the nations.
Verse 21 is the final part of this prayer. Here, Jesus prayed for those who will believe through the preaching of the disciples. He prays that same unity as exists between Him and the Father will hold fast the believers together, that others may also believe. The only possible way to have unity among believers is for all of them to find unity first with God in Christ. Beyond doubt, lack of agreement or harmony, quarrel, division are an obstacle to the outside world.
What is Ecumenism?
The term ‘ecumenism’ is derived from two Greek words: oikodome (οἰκοδομή) which means “the household of God”, and oikomene (οἰκουμένη) or “the whole inhabited world.” Thus, ecumenism means the move towards the achievement of unity among all Christian churches and ultimately among all religious communities, according to cbcpnews.net.
CBCP News further states that, ecumenism envisions a lasting efforts to bring Christians together, in order to show the unity that Christ wills for his followers. Pope John XXIII envisioned this Christian unity which is one important goal of Vatican II. Another pontiff who advanced the cause of Christian unity was Pope John Paul II in his encyclical on ecumenism (1995) entitled Ut Unum Sint (That All Would Be One) which echoes Jesus’ prayer mentioned above.
Alan Schreck, in his book Vatican II recorded Pope John Paul II’ s statement in that encyclical:
“Jesus himself, at the hour of his Passion, prayed “that they may all be one” (Jn. 17:21). This unity, which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and in which he wishes to embrace all people, is not something added on, but stands at the very heart of Christ’s mission. Nor is it some secondary attribute of the community of his disciples. Rather, it belongs to the very essence of this community. God wills the Church, because he wills unity, and unity is an expression of the whole depth of his agape…”
CBCP News also mentions the Protestants’ view of ecumenism. It states that the Protestants describe ecumenism as those movements toward Christian unity that took place throughout the world in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Thus, the very meaning of ecumenism has changed and grown. Now it has overtones of sympathy, openness, and dialogue associated with this movement.
Going back to John 17:21, Ecumenism or Christian unity should have an effect on people everywhere. It will convince them of the mission of Christ. It is also a rebuke to the persistent divisions among Christian churches. So, every time Christians express their unity, Christ’s prayer is realized. Should we pray the same prayer? Certainly, yes!
MySword for Android. Riversoft Ministry, 2011-2019.
Schreck, Alan. Vatican II. The Crisis and the Promose. Cincinnati, Ohio: Servant Books, 2005.
Zondervan NASB Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.