Friday, February 16, 2018

Unity and the World

“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 NIV)

Earlier this week, I spent time in Nashville, TN with a small group of campus ministers from two branches of a unity movement that began in the mid-18th Century and, as typically happens with these things, split up over several doctrinal issues. I won’t bore you with the history, only to say that this gathering was an attempt to begin dismantling a wall that was created by our ancestors over issues that no longer seem relevant or important to people many generations removed.

It was a great time to meet people passionate about Jesus and helping college students find their joy and purpose in Him. What the others and I discovered is we similarly believe and are committed to the fact Christians belong to the same body and Spirit. While there may be differences in practices and even some doctrine, our hearts and minds are together on the main thing—Jesus is Lord and the Bible is His Word for all generations. Thus, brothers and sisters, even if they are from other branches of the faith, have the same Lord and are family.

As we memorized and studied this passage together, I was convicted by Paul’s command to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” I confess I have not done this. On my campus, I have no animosity toward any of my fellow believers, but I have made little effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit. I have not sought them out to pray with them or find ways to have the students in our ministry work with theirs to create more of a sense of unity.

What I realized is I have given way to life’s general busyness. I have thought about it many times, and years earlier had participated in some “unity events” that left me discouraged because, while we may have been occupying the same geographical space, students sat and talked with their own groups. I suppose I have made efforts, but the “every” has been lacking.

So you’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with me?” Well, prepare yourself because I’m about to tell you. This passage, I believe, applies not only to various groups of Christians, but to individual relationships as well. Think for a minute, are there any relationships in your life that are broken? Can you honestly say that you have made every effort to repair them?

Relationships between believers are very important because Jesus says this is how the world will know what to believe about Him (John 17:23). In our current political environment, it should be obvious that strong impressions are being formed by how believers across the political spectrum relate to one another. Acrimony, expressions of disgust, and hateful social media posts leave the world shaking its collective head at people whose Lord says people will know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35).

It is impossible to change everyone’s perceptions of Christians or Jesus, but if we dedicate ourselves to making every effort to be united with those believers within our circles of interaction, we will be doing our part to making the Lord’s love known because we are living it out. However, it will not be easy because it may require us to humble ourselves, which we are often loathe to do. Yet, we must push through any hindrance to fulfilling the Lord’s command.

Today, consider the steps you can take to be reunited in the Spirit with a brother or sister in Christ. Then make every effort to do so. It may not be easy, but following the Lord usually never is.

© Jim Musser 2018

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