Friday, September 11, 2009

Maintain 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, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, He ascended, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) ~ Ephesians 4:1-10; ESV

Unity is an important part of God’s family. Since it is so important we can expect that it won’t come easy. Satan will do all that he can to bring division into the family of God. What Paul wants us to understand here is that we can either join God and work to maintain unity in the family, or we can join Satan and work with Him to bring disunity to the family.

Consider what New Testament scholar N. T. Wright says about this passage:
“But whatever position we take today, the one thing we can’t do is to pretend that this isn’t a central and vital issue. Unless we are working to maintain, defend and develop the unity we already enjoy, and to overcome, demolish and put behind us the disunity we still find ourselves in, we can scarcely claim to be following Paul’s teachings” (Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters; p. 44).

How is it possible to work to maintain unity in world that constantly wants to divide us? It begins with our attitudes. Paul tells us that we are to live with humility, gentleness, patience, and with love if we are going to maintain unity. In other words we have to remember that this isn’t about our feelings or our agendas, but it is about God’s Kingdom and His will. We have to be humble enough to lay aside anything that threatens to divide God’s family, whether that deals with the color of carpet in the church building or some political agenda that you hold dear.

Maintaining unity also requires that we remember what we share. Paul tells us that there is only one body of Christ, there is only one Spirit, there is only one hope, only one Lord, only one faith, only one baptism, only one God. Yes, living with other people is difficult. We will not always agree with what they have to say or the things that they do, but we have to remember there is only one body Christ, so we have to do our part to keep it one. That might mean calling someone out because they are being divisive, and their behavior needs to be challenged. At other times it might mean that we have to get off our high horse and let other people have a say, or at least give them a fair hearing.

The reason I bring this up is because I am beginning to see a wall being raised in the church. This wall is called politics and it is dividing liberals and conservatives, and the result is that God’s name is being dishonored as His children bicker among themselves. I have strong political beliefs, but I am not willing to divide Christ’s body over what I believe politically because politics doesn’t further the cause of the Kingdom one single bit. If we care more about what happens in this country than what happens in the Kingdom of God then we will allow politics to divide the Church, but if we care more about God’s Kingdom then we will be able to put aside our political agenda’s and look for ways we can work together to make this world a better place.

Followers of Christ work to maintain unity in the Body of Christ. The question I want you to think about is: Am I unifying or dividing the body of Christ?

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