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 17:23
More than often, in today’s time, I hear people saying they don’t ‘like’ a particular leader in church and so stopped going to church OR that someone in the church ‘hurt’ them OR someone did something ‘wrong’. While all these may be true and genuine reasons – it is not only unfruitful but also against God’s desire that anyone separates from the body of Christ and sails this earthly life all by themselves.
On the other hand, when Jesus prayed and asked God to bring us all in complete unity with Himself and God – He prayed it because it is possible.
Although the word ‘unity’ is often understood as an absence of hurt, misunderstandings, offence and negative emotions, it is not the true biblical expression of the word ‘unity’. In fact, ‘unity’ in the bible is far deeper than physical hugs, calls, gatherings and unions.
Have you seen how most families live and journey life together despite their differences, day-to-day disagreements, hurt, and misunderstandings? Why and how? Well, it is unity that comes from God that binds us, His people, together as one family – the church – despite our differences, hurts, misunderstandings and wrongdoing.
According to what Jesus prayed and the word of God – there are two crucial principles that we need to align ourselves to, that brings us to this unity –
• UNITY IN THE SPIRIT
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2 : 1 – 2
We, believers in Christ, must be united with the Spirit of God. Paul exhorts the church in Philippi to be one in spirit and of one mind. That is only possible by being united with Christ – as Jesus prays in John, ‘I in them and You in Me’. When you are connected to Christ, who is the head of the church, you will undoubtedly be connected to every other part of the body. This is because the Head, Jesus, himself has the best interests of all parts of His body in mind.
It will be about sympathising with others’ weakness rather than judging them. It will be about correcting and building up a fellow believer, instead of gossiping about them. This will be true unity.
If you are connected to Christ and share in the Spirit, you will begin to view, perceive and understand others through the Spirit of God. It will no longer be about your priorities that needs to be heard, but about God’s priorities being heard and taken into account. It will no longer be about what someone said or did, but about why that person said or did that very thing. It will be about sympathising with others’ weakness rather than judging them. It will be about correcting and building up a fellow believer, instead of gossiping about them. This will be true unity.
Jesus, himself, empathises with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15), that is why He even came to the point where He was willing to die for our sins. No one who is against you for your mistakes will die in your place for those very sins. He had the interests of the Father in mind, and so all He desired was to lavish the Father’s love on us, who sin against Him over and over again.
Friend, you have to walk in the Spirit and be in constant communion with Christ to be able to be truly united to the body of Christ. It is not about being united with one or two people who suit your interests, but every single person in the body of Christ.
John says in 1 John 3:15 that anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer. Why? Simply because God is love. Loving is the very nature of God. That is why, God loved us to an extent of sacrificing His only begotten son as a ransom for our sins. This means that if I truly love God, I have to accept this nature of His which is to love unconditionally.
God’s love is AGAPE. It is unconditional. You can stop talking to God, turn your back on Him, speak ill of Him – and He will still not stop loving you.
You have to walk in the Spirit and be in constant communion with Christ to be able to be truly united to the body of Christ.
And so, if you really love God, the truth is – you wouldn’t hate, or in simpler words, hold anything against anyone in your heart. You will instead lavish your love upon the person who has hurt you, harmed you or even done the worst to you. Simply because you love God, who loves that person enough to pay a penalty for that person’s sins.
Unite with Christ, through the Spirit of God, and you will begin to exhibit and live in what Jesus said is ‘complete unity’ within the body of Christ. Beyond the physical, it will be unity in the Spirit.
• UNITY COMES THROUGH MATURITY
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4 : 1-6
Unity comes with being able to live a life worthy of the call that God has over you. As you walk in communion with Christ, you will grow in maturity, in understanding and in reflecting Christ. Unity through the bond of peace that Paul talks about here in Ephesians is not an inherit nature in all of us. In fact, we all are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. The sinful nature is us is constantly battling with the Spirit of God who is at work in us. However, Jesus won the victory for us and so now we don’t need to submit to our sinful nature; rather we submit to the Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit will only lead us to be at peace with one another, to forgive one another, to bear with one another. As Paul says, there is ONE body, ONE spirit, ONE hope, ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all.
The triune God in the Bible best describes unity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit always work in tandem, in oneness and unity.
Where the flesh rules, there will be jealousy, offences, misunderstandings, hurt, fights, quarrels and differences. But where Christ rules, there will be understanding, forgiveness, acceptance, love, peace, joy and unity.
In the church of Corinth, people were jealous of one another and they had fights and quarrelling. Paul tells them in 1 Corinthian 3 : 1-3 – Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
Paul told them that their jealousy and quarrelling stemmed from their immaturity and lack of growth in Christ. Beloved, step up to know Christ more, grow in His likeness. Only when you grow to become more like Jesus, maturing in Him, will true unity reign in you.
Unity is more than feeling ‘comfortable’ around someone, it is making others feel comfortable around you. It is more than ‘not talking to someone because of their behaviour’, it is being there for everyone when they need you. It is more than mere hugs and kisses, it is loving each other at one’s worst.
Jesus said that if we, believers in Christ, come together in complete unity as Jesus resides in us and God resides in Him – then the world will know that Jesus has loved all of us the way that God has loved Him.
There’s a dire need today, for us to stop taking offence, being hurt and leaving the body of Christ – rather, to make efforts to keep the unity of the Spirit, be quick to forgive and love one another unconditionally. Then the world will see us and believe that Jesus is Lord.
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