By Van Richmond
Pastor, New Life Church, Nashville
Focal Passage: Ephesians 4:1-6
In a world filled with disagreement and divergent opinions, how does one go about achieving unity? Kristi’s T-shirt boldly and humorously answered that question: “Agree With Me Now. It Will Save Sooooo Much Time.”
If you asked a coach, university president, or corporate CEO to list essentials for success, “unity” would be mentioned quickly, with their responses likely being expressed as harmony, cohesiveness, or having everyone on the same page. Oh, if only unity and harmony could be achieved so easily! As difficult as it might be to imagine in today’s pay-with-plastic world, the owner of a donut shop has been dubbed the “Donut Nazi” because of his furious refusal when a customer wants to pay with a credit or debit card, often telling the shocked buyer to get out of his store. This shopkeeper’s livid tirades fly in the face of American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard’s advice, “Minimize friction and create harmony. You can get friction for nothing, but harmony costs courage and self-control.”
Psalm 133:1 proclaims, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” For clarification, unity is not uniformity. Unity comes from within and is a spiritual quality, while uniformity results from outside pressure. True spiritual maturity should lead us to a point where we do not need a referee, mediator, or our mother to remind us to play nicely with others. In Ephesians 4:1-6, Paul shared the recipe of unity that would be necessary for the early church to connect with its customers, the new believers and the non-believers. The ingredients were simple: humility, gentleness, and patience, all spiritual qualities that still allow us to exhibit self-control and strive for unity.
Someone has said, “Humility is that grace that, when you know you have it, you have lost it.” A minister received a very complimentary card from a lady in his congregation. After favorably comparing him with Billy Graham, she finished by writing, “I think you are one of the really great preachers of all time.” When he showed the note to his wife, she asked, “Who is that woman?” He replied, “She is a very intelligent woman in the congregation who loves great preaching.” He then asked his wife, “How many great preachers do you suppose there really are in the world?” She countered, “One less than you think.”
Paul moved from spiritual qualities to encouragement, and his exhortation of “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit” suggests daily, zealous efforts to maintain cohesion. “It’s great that you love each other,” a seasoned saint said to a newly wedded couple, “but if you’re going to be happy in marriage, you gotta work at it!” Likewise, being happy and connecting in unity in the church requires members to work at it.
Just a few years ago, the U.S. Army enlisted many young men and women as a result of their “Army of One” recruiting campaign. That pitch was soon abandoned because numerous soldiers attempted to be an “Army of One,” picturing themselves as Rambo-like warriors unrestricted by the elements of teamwork and unity a successful army thrives on. Paul embraced the idea of one — one body of believers unified in love through one Spirit.
This question was once asked, “If you could choose what you want most in life, what would you ask for?” The most common answer was “Peace.” In offering true peace, Jesus sought togetherness for His followers. He prayed for His disciples and then for all believers: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:20-21).
“That all of them may be one.” Let’s strive for unity, not because someone demands “agree with me now,” but because of a sincere desire to “walk worthy of the calling” we have received.