While studying unity, see “Struggling for Unity” for details on that effort, I could not escape the role of individual responsibility for the creation, growth and continual existence of unity. I did not necessarily like (in my flesh) what I found either because it requires significant change on my part both in action and in mindset.
Paul addressed unity a lot within the early church, and the issue remains a constant struggle still today for most (all?) churches. While there are numerous Scriptures throughout the Old and New Testaments touting the importance and even the absolute necessity of unity, one portion in particular strikes me as a sort of mantra for unity. Ephesians 3 provides the motivation for unity (because we’re called, saved & equipped with God’s power), and Ephesians 4 gets into the details of what unity in the body looks like. I encourage you to read all of both chapters now, but at the very least meditate on these key phrases from Ephesians 4 while considering your individual role in creating and maintaining unity.
“Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowances for each others faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.”
“One body… one Spirit… on glorious future… one Lord… one faith… one baptism… one God and Father…”
“… hold to the truth in love…”
“Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
“…throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life…”
“So put away all falsehood and ‘tell your neighbor the truth’ because we belong to each other.”
“…be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
With those verses in mind, consider the following statements as you contemplate your own role in the unity of the body. These statements simply reflect my personal agenda for positively impacting the unity of my family and my church.
For the sake of building unity in the groups of which I am a part, I commit to…
- Preferring others by not insisting and arguing for my own way, wants & desires.
- Allowing others to make mistakes without receiving criticism from me and to instead offer encouragement and sometimes instruction.
- Refusing to assume because I know that assumptions (always? often? usually?) lead to foolish behavior.
- Avoid operating on misinformation while at the same time realizing that some things are simply none of my business.
- Treating others with respect even when I don’t agree with them.
- Focusing on facts over feelings.
- Realizing there is often more than one right way to accomplish a goal.
- Accepting people where they are and encouraging them to always be growing.
- Making sure I’m always growing spiritually since no one is responsible for my growth but me.
- Refusing to give up on unity by continually praying for and working toward peace with others regardless of their efforts.
Consider taking time to write your own plan for building, promoting and protecting unity. Ephesians 3 and 4 were used as guides for my own statements, but really the entire book of Ephesians provides tremendous help toward playing an active role in making sure unity thrives in your relationships. Other Scripture driving home the point include 1 Peter 3:8-9, Psalm 34 and Psalm 133. I encourage you to make unity a priority in your life and to “do all that you can to live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
DISCUSSION: What are you doing regularly to build and protect unity?