If yesterday’s ‘theology’ post was about the vertical relationship between God above and humanity below, then today’s post on unity is about the horizontal relationship we have with the people around us.
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:20, 21 NASB)
Throughout Scripture we are reminded that we’re all in this together. No one can claim a healthy Christian life without connection to their fellow believers. Paul makes a lengthy analogy of us all as individual parts of a body, where no part of the body can tell another “I have no need of you.” If we can’t tell parts that we don’t need them, we certainly can’t blow off the entire rest of the body. (See 1 Cor 12 for the full analogy.)
Every piece is important, because each of us brings something unique to help the greater whole.
So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight.(1 Corinthians 14:26 MSG)
Formal translations often use the term “edification” as in the building up of others. In Peter’s epistle, we are likened to stones that God is using to build up His house, and so I would ask what kind of a house we would have with just one brick sitting off by itself.
We’re meant to be together. The Message paraphrase continues to say, “When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony” (v.33).
What are some practical ways to work toward this?
Look for the good in others, not the differences. While our differences may be many, and may be important, we can usually find something special and valuable about even those we do not like. Focusing on that helps us keep ill will in check. God called to us in the midst of sin and rebellion; we can see the value in others even when we disagree with them.
Consider how God sees others. If we can’t see any good, God can, because He paid the same price for that other person that He paid for us. We can be honest about how we feel, but we should also ask God to give His perspective. God sees us through Christ; we should seek to see others the same way.
Seek what benefits others, if not all. If it serves my own purpose, it may not be the right choice, and it probably isn’t the best way to bring harmony with others. If it serves God’s purpose, it may not always be popular, but it should be what’s necessary to build up His people. Christ gave all for us; we can give some for others.
Be honest and forgiving. Confrontations must sometimes take place so that a relationship can build stronger ties of trust and respect. Misunderstandings can keep us at arm’s length, not in open conflict but in cold separation. That’s not acceptable. We’re made to work together. Sometimes that means speaking the truth in love, and many times that means asking or extending forgiveness for wrongs. We’ve been forgiven much; we can forgive.
Be willing to be wronged. Paul writes to the Corinthians to condemn them for taking disputes to the public courts, doing disservice to the work of the church to shine as a beacon to the world around them. He tells them that their issues could have been resolved in the church walls, and then he asks them, “Wouldn’t it be better to just let yourselves be wronged, and forget it?” Sometimes we just need to choke on some pride and get past a problem instead of fighting for our rights. That doesn’t mean be a doormat, and it never ever justifies abuse or harm. But when it’s a minor snub or a silly argument about unimportant matters, why not cast aside the offense in favor of love and pursuit of God’s purpose? He’s been patient with us; we can be patient with others.
What do you think are some other ways to work toward unity in the body? Let me know in a comment.