Unity is beautiful and precious – and it is blessed by God!
King David of Israel described it in rich poetry in Psalm 133:
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life for evermore.” (Psalm 133 NIV)
Surely we want to live like that!
Facing the cross, Jesus prayed for those who would later come to believe in him through the preaching of the Gospel.
And this is what he prayed:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be ONE, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to COMPLETE UNITY. Then THE WORLD WILL KNOW that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23 NIV)
Jesus could have prayed for many things – but he prayed for unity.
Unity is precious to Jesus.
Unity demonstrates the love of God and reveals Jesus as the Son of God sent from heaven.
It should therefore be precious to us!
Yet unity can be elusive – amongst churches and even within churches. If it is this important, we surely need to make every effort to establish and maintain unity!
Unity is often regarded as “something that church leaders must sort out“. And church leaders do have a vital part to play in building unity. But unity is actually everyone’s business. Every member of the Church has a part to play.
Some years ago, a unity initiative was instigated in our city. Yet, when united gatherings were arranged, the response of the people was disappointing. Leaders organised numerous events, but the support of the people was inadequate… and the campaign faded out.
You and I can’t change the hearts of those around us – but we can make a personal decision to be agents of unity ourselves. As Paul put it in Romans 12:18 (NIV):
“…as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Unity begins with you!
Let’s choose to live and relate in ways that build unity!
To get to a place where we “live together in unity”, I believe there are three things to consider:
1. Our BELIEFS
2. Our ATTITUDES
3. Our RELATIONSHIPS
1. OUR BELIEFS
We have to start here – do we HONESTLY BELIEVE that unity is important? If we don’t, we will not pursue unity. To be brutally honest, building unity can be hard work, with little, or no, personal reward. If we don’t believe it’s important, we are unlikely to make the necessary efforts and sacrifices.
It would therefore be helpful for us to prayerfully read what the Bible teaches about unity. Here are some passages to read:
– Psalm 133
– John 17:20-23
– Romans 15:1-6
– Ephesians 4:1-6
These passages reveal something of the way God values unity (and how these godly leaders valued unity). Let’s allow them to reshape what we believe about unity!
2. OUR ATTITUDES
As our beliefs change, our thinking needs to follow.
The primary “attitude shift” we need to make is to deal with our self-centredness (our focus on ourselves). Living in unity means that we live with others in view. “I” and “me” must be replaced with “we” and “us”.
So: I am doing OK (or maybe I am not doing OK)… but how are WE doing?
Realistically, living in community will be difficult at times. We have to recognise that we are “in this together” with people who are different: we have different ideas, different preferences, different priorities and different capacities. So we can’t do everything our own way and in our own time! We have to learn to defer to the community for the sake of unity.
Let’s embrace this. It’s worth it!
3. OUR RELATIONSHIPS
If we want to “live together in unity”, we are going to need to develop healthy relationships. Here are some instructions from Scripture:
(a) Help the “weak” instead of tolerating or criticising them
“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” (Romans 15:1-2 NLT)
(b) Seek to be a blessing to others, not yourself
“For even Christ didn’t live to please himself.” (Romans 15:3 NLT)
(c) Pray for a supernatural empowering to live in unity
“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.” (Romans 15:5 NLT)
(d) Make every effort (work hard) to build unity
“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” (Ephesians 4:3 NLT)
(e) Forgive those who offend you
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13 NLT)
(f) “Release the peace” of Jesus
“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.” (Colossians 3:15 NLT)
Unity is beautiful! Unity is precious! Unity is blessed by God!
Let it start with you!