Shortly before our Lord was crucified, He prayed to the Father, “I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Mine; all Mine are Yours, and yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17.9-11)
This promise for unity from God is no small gift for us to disregard. In our contemporary world, much is said about faith and promises. Outside of the Orthodox Church it is common to hear that God promises physical blessings to those who believe. This so-called prosperity gospel seems to suggest that the more you believe, the more prosperity you will enjoy on earth. Tell that to Job! There is no such promise from God. If anything earthly, He promises we will always have what we need to survive another day to repent. Granted, some have been blessed with great earthly blessings, but many also work hard every day just for their daily bread. Beyond our basic needs, God’s promises are focused on our eternal salvation rather than our temporary life on earth.
This past Thursday the Church celebrated the Feast of Ascension, when Christ returns to His Heavenly Throne. Jesus Christ, the God-Man we believe to be fully human and fully divine, is sitting on His Heavenly Throne and we are blessed to be there with Him. If we believe that we are united to God in our baptism, as the Church teaches, then we must understand that Jesus Christ takes us with Him to heaven at His Ascension. Our unity with Jesus Christ is real, albeit a mystery, and it is about time we live as if we believe it.
Unity with God is not just a blessing for which we should be filled with joy. It is also a burden that requires a response. Since we are with Jesus on His throne, that means He is also with us here on earth. That means that every action we take, whether according to God’s will or not, Jesus Christ is there with us. He is with us in every word, every choice, every action, calling out to our hearts to love Him enough to trust His promise, and live as if we are indeed united to Him. He prayed for us, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”
The evil one couldn’t destroy Jesus, and He can’t destroy us unless, like the son of perdition, we allow it.