“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just 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 have sent me.” John 17:20-21
No matter what kind of car I drive, no matter how expensive, how amazing, nor how reliable it is, if I cannot see out the windshield, it is worthless to me. It’s ironic. A $20 part (a windshield wiper blade) can make all the difference in whether an otherwise amazing vehicle is of any use at all. The windshield, you see, is the only lens through which we, as drivers, can see the road ahead.
Jesus spoke of a similar concept in John 17. At a moment in time when Jesus was considering the global revolution He and his followers were about to start (we call it “the church”), he lifted his eyes toward heaven and prayed. Understanding the challenges the future church would face in bringing a lost and broken world to see and believe in Christ, he asked his Father for the one thing we would need most in order to accomplish our mission: relationships which point to Jesus.
Here is what Jesus understood and a truth we must grasp as well: if the key to a fruitful church is “Christ in us”, then the key to the world seeing Christ in us is relationships in our lives which point to Jesus. In short, our ability to show this world Jesus depends to a huge extent on our maintaining God-honoring relationships in our lives. Our relationships actually become the lens through which our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers see Jesus. The only lens.
The mistake we make is that we think broken relationships in our lives hurt us and nobody else. Sure, they are uncomfortable and inconvenient, but we can live with them. What we miss, however, is the damage this “dirty windshield” does to our testimony. We miss the fact that these broken relationships in our lives make it difficult, even impossible, for others to see Jesus in us. In that case, then, “Christ in you” is more or less wasted. It is why the apostle Paul would caution us regarding those relationships: As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18.
As it turns out, our effectiveness in our mission is dependent upon our ability to reconcile broken relationships and maintain healthy relationships. Keeping a clean windshield, it seems, is the hard work of this journey.