Maintain Christian Unity

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, . . . eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 
(Ephesians 4:1, 3, ESV)

As Americans we declare our unity by pledging allegiance to the flag of the UNITED States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, ONE NATION, under God, INDIVISIBLE, with liberty and justice for ALL. Yet by many accounts America is deeply divided. We are divided among ethnic, socio-economic, gender, generational, regional, and political lines (just to name a few divisions). Clearly, we are not a “united” nation, not “one nation,” and not “indivisible.” Just because we declare unity does not mean we have unity. There is not enough space in this brief article to explain how we went from being “one nation under God” to a nation of individuals with many gods. Nevertheless, having started out as a nation with an understanding of responsibility for one another, Americans now find themselves caught up in the individualism of our age. 

Unfortunately, this rugged American individualism has invaded the church. Consequently, there is not much unity in the church as many demand their own way. We might offer a host of reasons for the American church’s disunity, but the apostle Paul summarizes well what is perhaps the number one reason: spiritual immaturity (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). Those who are spiritually immature think of no one other than themselves (James 4:1-4). 

Realizing the human proclivity toward self-centeredness and selfishness, Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to manifest Christian unity with all humility and gentleness, patience and forbearance, in love (Eph. 4:1-2). In other words, as Christians, we manifest our unity by how we treat others. Do you treat others with humility? Gentleness? Patience? Forbearance? Love? 

On Sunday, Brian Davis reminded us from Psalm 133 that the basis of Christian unity is that God is our Father and Jesus, through whom we have been reconciled to God, is our elder brother. By faith in Christ, then, we are united with Christ by his Spirit, brought into the family of God, and call one another brothers and sisters. This love and unity is our “apologetic,” Brian said. By our love and unity the world will know we belong to Jesus.

On this basis, then, Paul urges the Ephesians to maintain Christian unity with all diligence (Eph. 4:3). Christian unity is a gift, given to us by the Holy Spirit of God when He unites us with Christ at conversion (Eph. 4:3), yet we are to diligently maintain it. Why? Here is Paul’s argument: since we have one Father, we are one family (Eph. 4:6); since we have one Lord, we have one hope, one faith and one baptism (Eph. 4:4b-5); and since we have one Spirit, we are one body (Eph. 4:4a). In other words, we are to maintain Christian unity because the unity of the church is a reflection and testimony to the indestructible unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

In your interactions with fellow church members, are you manifesting the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, or are you manifesting bitter jealousy and selfish ambitions? Are you diligently maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, or are you diligently maintaining divisions within the body of Christ? Remember Paul’s warning to the Corinthians that anyone who seeks to destroy the temple (church) of God, God will destroy them (1 Corinthians 3:17). Therefore, let us glorify God’s united, Trinitarian nature by manifesting and maintaining the unity that He has given to us. As we treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, the world will know we belong to the Father in heaven.