Struggling for Unity

UnityAchieving and sustaining real, productive unity seems more and more like grabbing a handful of water these days. Sure, we see glimpses of people uniting for a cause or to accomplish a specific task or goal, but those events seem more like a bandage on a gaping wound than any real gain toward unity.

Instead, many (most?) countries lack a unified people and/or government, and so many companies and organizations struggle in a constant state of mismanagement and overwhelm. Broken marriages divide families and erode trust. Even churches crumble under the weight of selfish disagreements leading to division and strife.

Unity Takes Hard Work.

Feelings often encourage one direction while unity requires another. The choice between self and others continually drives a wedge into any efforts toward unity.

Often, people attempt to avoid disagreement and struggle in an attempt to create unity, failing to realize that unity exists as individuals work through disagreement and struggle. In other words, we find unity as we persevere through differences in opinion and preference and instead work toward peace as we focus on a singular goal. Refusing to quit in the struggle usually leads to great gains in unity.

The Bible teaches on unity more than on Heaven or Hell perhaps because while Satan may not be able to steal our salvation, he can undermine our effectiveness through disunity. He knows that the church and God’s people need unity in order to accomplish the goal of spreading the Gospel. He also knows that unity flourishes as we obey the command to love God and others, and getting our focus on our own desires keeps us from taking the path of love that leads to unity.

Basic Truths About Unity

Let’s look at some basic truths about unity found in Scripture in an effort to realize the significance of the stability unity brings to God’s people, benefits that flow well beyond the body of Christ.

  1. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17). In fact, His last prayer before taking the road to the cross focused on unity among God’s people. He knew that Christians united under God could accomplish much for the Kingdom than individuals operating on individual agendas.
  2. Unity is a command (Ephesians 4:3). A church filled with believers focused on leading Holy-Spirit led lives leads to a unified body bound by peace. Peace and unity together create a strand not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
  3. Unity brings God’s blessings (Psalm 133). Harmony among God’s people refreshes the body of Christ. The pleasant and precious nature of unity spreads and soothes even into areas where chaos reigns.
  4. Unity is a powerful witness (John 13). Simply put, unity and peace make Christianity – following Jesus – attractive to the world. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.
  5. Unity meets deep, emotional needs (Philippians 2:1-2). Encouragement. Comfort. Fellowship. Tenderness. Sympathy. Where these flow, unity and love exist in abundance.
  6. Unity comes through the spiritual growth of individuals (Colossians 2:2). Encouragement and strong ties of love come through confidence in the Gospel. That confidence results when individuals focus on knowing Christ.
  7. God gives us what we need for unity (Romans 15:1-6). Through God’s gifts of patience and encouragement for the purpose of preferring others, individuals adopt the attitude of Christ as a lifestyle, and unity naturally results.
  8. Unity is the strength (essence) of a healthy church (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12; Galatians 3:28). A unified church recognizes the need for every individual to do his/her part, each playing an integral role in the unified body of Christ.
  9. Love results in unity (Colossians 3:14). In fact, love exists as the most important piece of “clothing” a Christian wears because of its role in creating unity.
  10. We must guard unity (Ephesians 4:3; Philippians 2:1-5; 1 Peter 3:8-9). Guarding requires deliberate attention, which means intentionally focusing on the elements that create and sustain unity.

Unity requires a lot of consistent hard work (Psalm 34). Doing nothing to promote unity means allowing it to evaporate and become all but invisible as the gaping wounds in individual lives, in families, in churches, and in countries fester and reach epidemic and infectious proportions.

On Thursday, we’ll look at our individual responsibility for the creation, growth and sustained existence of unity. Get ready… eliminating severe infection often requires pain and sacrifice.

DISCUSSION: What are your thoughts about unity?

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10 thoughts on “Struggling for Unity

  1. Good perspective. My only thought would be unity can never be forced or coerced – it is the by-product of a common hope and vision established upon common values. It naturally comes as the outflow of all the members holding to the same unselfish goals so no one is left out or left behind. The moment we demand unity, unity becomes undone! The moment we use unity as the solution to our differences, it loses its power. Unity like you stated is anchored in God's love being present – selfish love pries the bonds of unity.

    • Great additional thoughts, Coach. Unity cannot be forced upon anyone. At the same time, it provides the glue for our differences as we focus on a common goal & purpose. Thanks!

  2. You are right Kari. It takes hard work. From 11/05 when i came here until about March of 2009 we had experienced nothing but good. But the enemy got his foot in the door and for the next 6-7 months put us through hell. High school kids moving away. Hurt feelings over something done by our youth pastor (not immoral). A small group gone awry. Attendance dropping from close to 200 to 120. Hard times caused by division and divisiveness. But God was faithful and has brought us to new heights. Why did it happen? I think we quit working at unity. We took it for granted.
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    • Great point about what happens when we take unity for granted and quit guarding it. Another point I see in your comment is the impact of small things on the larger picture. We have to get at problems when they are small before they truly create problems in the unity of the whole group. Starts with individuals. Satan may not be able to steal our salvation, but he knows how easily he can steal our effectiveness through disunity. Constantly guarding unity is so important for the Christian church & the advancement of the Gospel.

  3. Love you list of truths. Unity is hard work and as you said, there are many fighting against it. I think for me that is the hardest part . . . you can promote unity, but it takes God working in the hearts and minds of all parties to make it happen. I think that's where praying for unity becomes essential in marriage, family, and any group that lives in community. Looking forward to the rest of this series Kari!
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    • Thanks, Deb. I'm just at a point where I realize I can only do what I can do. I can't force others to work toward unity. BUT, as you said, I can pray for it, which I do regularly. Thanks again.

  4. Unity is hard work. It requires us to often look for another alternative rather than the one I have or others have. If we give up promoting our ideas and instead all look at what could be best it helps. It is hard and takes alot of work. It is not giving in or compromise but the hard work of finding what is best in a situation and sometimes we really are not willing to do the work to get there.

    • Yes it is. Admitting our way isn\’t best can be a struggle. Pride gets in the way. Even with all my hard work, I struggle with it. Need more of Jesus, more of his Holy Spirit working in me.

    • I couldn't get past that fact either, Loren. Regardless of how I feel or what I do or what others do, unity in the church body is important to God. We need no other reason to pursue it than that.

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