Practice Unity

A small cross of twigsThere is a great need for love in today’s world. Of course, this has always been true, and always will be. However, today’s level of divisiveness makes the need especially clear. Pointing to the source, Christians are called upon to be agents of God’s love. This is a tall order in today’s world, but we can be assured of direction and power when we act according to His will.

One thing that is clearly aligned with His will is that Christians are to love one another, making this a good starting point. This was also one of Jesus’ most direct commands:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34–35 (ESV)

This command echoes the first and greatest commandment — to love God, because, as John pointed out, we cannot claim to love God if we hate those in whom He dwells (fellow believers). The result of this love would be that we are known as His disciples— a group that was to represent Him, even embody Him, in the world.

However, the world needs to really understand Who is being represented. Related to His command for us to love one another, Jesus gave us the means to help the world understand who He is when He prayed for us:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  John 17:20–21 (ESV)

He prayed that we would be one. Imagine that! The Son of God’s own prayer request was that we would walk in unity.

This doesn’t come natural, unfortunately. Humans have a tendency to create isolated groups and it takes deliberate spiritual effort to break out of that. Perhaps this is why Paul wrote that lack of unity was a sign of spiritual immaturity.

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?  1 Corinthians 3:1–4 (ESV)

The actions and attitudes of division are merely human, the result of walking in the flesh rather than the Spirit.

These things, the command to love and the related prayer for unity, are not just for Christians, but also for unbelievers. It is God’s desire that they would know Him and know that He sent Jesus. That truth is part of the good news, and when we live as we are supposed to, the fact that we are Jesus’ disciples gives support to the message we share.

While it is God’s desire that all would come to know Him, it is not the enemy’s desire. If unity helps the world recognize Jesus, then the enemy will try to prevent it, and will use deception and accusation to separate us. Because of this, when we see things that work to separate us, we should test the source.

Despite this attack, Jesus prayed for us and His prayer is stronger than the enemy’s attacks. The enemy deceives us to bring about division. Jesus prays for us to bring about unity. Let’s act in agreement with His prayer.

Striving for unity in today’s world can be hard. The nature of work often pulls our minds away from spiritual things like the spiritual connection we share, but even though we have differences, as we spiritually mature they should pale in the face of Christ’s own prayer.

How then can we do this?

Perhaps prayer is a good place to start. Gathering to pray for each other builds relationships while acknowledging the shared spiritual connection we have in the Father. We can also build relationships by coming together to pray for others, including our leaders both secular and spiritual. After all, we’re to pray for all our leaders, not just those in government (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

But this is just a starting point. In addition to prayer, we can study together, encourage each other, share meals, support and help each other, and so on.

There are many other possibilities, but the point is to be deliberate, to act on our belief in agreement with our Lord’s desire. Seek the Lord, talk to other believers, and see what ideas you can come up with. Be creative.

May it be that those around us see unity and recognize it as an outgrowth/outpouring of love, and may that bring them to Him.

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