return to religion-online

So They May See My Glory (John 17:24)

by Kosuke Koyama

>Kosuke Koyama is John D.Rockefeller, Jr., Professor of Ecumenics and World Christianity at Union Theology Seminary in New York City. This article appeared in the Christian Century, May 3, 1989, p. 467. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation and used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
so that they may always see my glory
which you have given me
because you loved me
before the foundation of the world
[John 17:24].

From love comes glory, not vice versa. Glory which is not rooted in love tends to be a false glory, the glory of Molech, the Canaanite god of fire. Molech demanded human sacrifice to maintain its glory. This ideology keeps imperialism alive. Daniel gives a vivid description of the spirit of imperialism:

Peoples, nations, languages! Thus are you commanded: the moment you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, zither, harp, bagpipe and every other kind of instrument, you will prostrate yourselves and worship the golden statue set up by King Nebuchadnezzar [Dan. 3:4-5].

This is totalitarian. All peoples, without exception, are required to worship the golden statue that represents Nebuchadnezzar and his imperial glory. Here glory is violently monopolized. This violence is inherent in glory that is divorced from the common good, love. Nebuchadnezzar obviously found delight in prostration politics, preferring an automatic reaction to a thoughtful response to the imperial command: "The moment you hear the sound of horn, pipe, . . . prostrate yourselves!" Don’t think deeply about the meaning of the command! Just do it quickly! This imperial command has been heard in every civilization in the past and present.

But the glory of the biblical God judges that of Nebuchadnezzar. God’s glory is rooted in God’s love. God’s glory is that God loves humanity. "I want those you have given me to be with me where I am." These are the words of love, therefore, the words of glory. "To be with God" is salvation in the ultimate sense. This is the content of the reign of God. This is "heaven," the most gloriously fulfilled state of human beings and of all creation. God assures the wandering Jacob, "Be sure, I am with you; I shall keep you safe wherever you go" (Gen. 28:15) In commissioning Jeremiah God tells him. "Do not be afraid of confronting them, for I am with you to rescue you (Jer. 1:8) Jesus is called Emmanuel, "which means ‘God-is-with-us’." (Matt. 1:23) According to John, he is so called because "the Word was with God." (John 1:1) Salvation is not to possess something externally. It is to live "with God."

The psalmist sings:

For he is king of the whole world; learn the music, let it sound for God! God reigns over the nations, seated on his holy throne [Ps. 47:7-8].

God sits on the "holy throne." Holiness in its fundamental nature, separates itself from the unholy and the profane. Yet love expresses itself by coming to the unholy. There, the holiness and the love of God are in tension, but united. This tension-filled unity is at the heart of the Christian faith. The holy God in Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.

The holiness of God is the awesome primordial dignity of God. The love of God is the unfathomable mystery. God’s love is real and profound because God is holy. "Learn the music!" This is not a totalitarian music. It is a doxological music. Christian theology and ethics draw their inspiration from the unity of the love and holiness of God.

The holy Jesus established his sovereignty by being crucified between two thieves. He became the center of salvation in the extreme periphery. The one who has experienced this periphery now is seated on the holy throne. It is in the extreme periphery that holiness and love express themselves in unity. This is where we see the glory of God. What a message! "The message of the cross is folly," says the apostle Paul (I Cor. 1:18) It is through this message, however, that "God reigns over the nation" (Ps. 47:8)


Viewed 13633 times.