Making Every Effort: Unity
by James Martin
The need for church unity is so often on the lips of church leaders. If you’ve attended church for a few years, then I’m sure you’ve not escaped the topic. There’s good reason for this, because the Bible frequently point us there. The Bible tells us that we are united to Jesus, and therefore, united to each other. Our unity is a cosmic reality. But the big issue is whether or not that cosmic reality of unity is observable or not.
It makes sense to me that unity would be such a promoted point of teaching when you see the kinds of things churches in the 21st Century have to face. As the world and the enemy ramp up their efforts to see a fractured church, we Christians need to come back again and again to think about how we’re navigating a turbulent age with all the togetherness we can muster. After all, unified is who and what we are, whether or not it feels like or looks like it.
Recently, I was reading Ephesians 4 and I noticed something about church unity that requires our attention. Paul writes, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (v.1-3 ESV).
Right at the end there, Paul charges the believers to be “eager to maintain” unity, or as the NIV translates it as, “make every effort to keep the unity.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t often think about unity as something that requires our proactive investment. I’m sure I have had all kinds of thoughts about Christian unity in my spaghetti head, but the thoughts haven’t usually got anything to do with doing whatever it takes and making strenuous efforts to maintain unity. Perhaps, I most often just think that unity will make itself happen, or we’ll somehow drift towards it, like a piece of driftwood finding the beach. Perhaps, I even subconsciously think unity is somehow stumbled across by shear chance.
Paul doesn’t want people like me getting away with thinking that unity might just appear out of thin air. Rather, Paul’s charge is for us to make every effort to foster unity – even when it costs us. It’s going to take hard work.
This will mean putting our agendas on the back burner more often than we’d like to. It doesn’t mean our silence, but it’ll mean a much more gracious disposition towards the things that bother us. It’s going to mean praying for and exercising patience, especially, when it’s the last thing we want to do. It won’t be easy and it’ll mean our proactive input. We don’t drift towards unity, we fight for it.
Here’s the crux of it.
If we are Christians, then we have been united to Jesus. If we have been united to Jesus, then we are the unified Body of Jesus. If we are the Body of Jesus, then we need to make every effort to demonstrate that unity. Anything other than a wholehearted pursuit of unity is the opposite to the existing cosmic reality of our unity. So, let’s make every effort to show what’s really there.
November 20, 2018
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