October 19 I Friday
2 Thessalonians 2
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” —Ephesians 4:3
There is a commonly held vision in Western society for unity that drives people to seek the end of discrimination and political unrest. People have even written songs about a world not divided by country, poverty, religion or possessions. This vision comes from the desire God placed within us for relationship. When God created Adam, He created an individual, but when He created Eve, He created community. When the individual fell, so did society, causing division where there was once perfect relationship and unity.
Just as Christ alone can repair the broken relationships between individuals and God, only He can restore fallen community between people. The New Testament records the establishment of a new spiritual community, the church, where unity is intrinsic. Paul writes of a sevenfold oneness in the church, saying, “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...” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Jesus described the nature of our spiritual unity when He prayed that all believers “...may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (John 17:21). As believers, we are united as a community because we are each united with Christ and being increasingly conformed to His character. We are to be one with Him in the way that He, as a man, was one with His Father: by living in union with, obedience to and dependence on Christ.
Sometimes, however, we confuse spiritual unity with organizational uniformity. Some church congregations adopt labels, rituals or attire expectations in the name of unity that end up producing disunity in the larger body of Christ. I once heard of a man who felt he could not attend a certain church because he could not afford a suit. When churches develop an atmosphere of worship where everyone looks alike, talks alike, thinks alike and all read the same Bible translation, the danger is we might alienate those outside our congregations, whether believers or unbelievers.
The Holy Spirit in us makes unity intrinsic to the church, but we must strive to keep it. In essential beliefs, we are to have unity; in non-essential beliefs, liberty; but in all beliefs, charity. All who trust in Christ, whatever their worship practices or denominational affiliation, are our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and the body depends on all of us working together to function properly. Oneness does not have to be a dream or wishful thinking; for those in Christ, unity is already a spiritual reality.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that unity in the church does not depend on practices or denominations but comes from being indwelt by Your Spirit and each being united with Christ.