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Doing the work of unity

Posted by on Jul 4, 2012 in unity | 11 comments

Doing the work of unity

As I mentioned in a previous post (“Unity: The Series“), this week I’m writing a series on the topic of unity among the body of Christ. Yesterday, I suggested that we are united in Christ, but we are not generally living in that unity (“We ARE united, but we are NOT united“). Now, remember, I am talking about unity among those who are in Christ, who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who are followers of Jesus Christ, who are children of God. This is the beginning point of my series. Throughout the series, you can assume that these are the people that I am talking about.

In that last post, I said that the reason we are not living in the unity that we actually have in Jesus Christ is that we fail to do the work of unity. I pointed to the following passage penned by Paul to the church in Ephesus:

I [Paul] 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… (Ephesians 4:1-3a ESV)

In that passage, Paul says that “walking in a manner worthy of our calling” in Jesus Christ is reflected in the way that we interact with people who disagree with us, that is, by responding to them in humility, gentleness, patience, love, being eager (or making every effort) to maintain the unity that we already have in the Spirit.

There is a similar passage in another letter that Paul wrote, this one to the believes in Phillipi. There is a focus on unity and fellowship throughout that letter, but especially at the beginning of chapter 2:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)

Again, the work of unity is found in seeking love instead of seeking to fulfill one’s own desires. It’s found in considering others more important and looking out for their interests. Or, in a word that we find in both passages, the work of unity is found in humility.

Notice that Paul says this work of unity flows out of our encouragement in Christ, our fellowship in the Spirit, and our love for one another. This is not something that we attempt to drum up on our own. We can’t. But, since we are in Christ, everything needed to carry out this work of unity is already present.

Finally, just after this passage, in Philippians 2:5-11, Paul again points his readers back to Christ as the ultimate example in this kind of humility – an example of putting others first, of refusing to hold on to what was rightfully his so that we could serve others.

So, humility is the work of unity. Then, what is the work of divisiveness?

———————————

Series on Unity

  1. Unity: The Series
  2. We ARE united, but we are NOT united
  3. Doing the work of unity
  4. Doing the work of division
  5. Unity begins and ends in Jesus Christ

11 Comments

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  1. 7-4-2012

    another great post in the series

  2. 7-4-2012

    So, humility is the work of unity. Then, what is the work of divisiveness?
    Well it is again to keep in unity the truth that paul kept exhorting and even Christ exhorted it to te religous leaders of his day as well. Diviseness in this case is not to divide truth. It is to keep truth in check. It is discerning error form truth. If one is in bondage to anything besides Christ, the Father and the Holy Ghost then there might be error in that persons truth and might need to rethink truth. For we are called to freedom in love

  3. 7-5-2012

    Php 2:4 regarding not each his own qualities , but each those of others also. (Darby)

    I like John Darby’s rendering because it addresses the issue of leadership in the church. Leaders must lead and take initiatives but should never forget the talent and opinions of others. Many good ideas get lost because they do no come from the “right People”. Unity means that everyone has an equal voice.

  4. 7-5-2012

    So are leaders needed and or called to be if we are to be all equal, i would think there to be no leaders at all. This is why I personally like Bible studies, where the field is at least leveled, and all that attend are invited to speak up

  5. 7-5-2012

    “So, humility is the work of unity. Then, what is the work of divisiveness?”

    The work of divisiveness is what the work of unity is not. To use your own words, Alan, divisiveness is caused by “seeking to fulfill one’s own desires.”

    Humility is the attitude that enables one to do the work of unity, but it is not the work of unity itself. Also, just as humility is the proper attitude, love is the motivation. Serving one another through love (Gal 5:13) is the work of unity. Opposite that, arrogance and jealousy are the attitudes, and selfish ambition is the motivation.

    For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:16)

    However, the prince of the power of the air would have us believe that these states would have to be extreme in order to be offensive. Countless are the number of those would justify themselves simply by saying they’re not as bad as someone else. “Well, at least I don’t [cheat on my spouse, murder babies, steal thousands from my employer (or employees), drink alcohol, do drugs, bother my neighbor, etc.]”

    Doing the work of unity requires a conscious effort, a choice to be made. So, in that regard, and in light of the flippant self-justification heard so often, one might argue that doing the work of divisiveness is simply a matter of not doing the work of unity. But, we can’t say that Paul, when tent making, traveling, or resting, was doing the work of divisiveness. Work is only a part of our human existence, but significant enough to be our life mission with good works through Jesus Christ which God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)

    For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Php 1:21-24)

  6. 7-5-2012

    Dear Reader,

    I start out thinking, “Oh, I’ll just make a quick comment.” Sorry! Nice posts and blog, Alan, very nice. Thanks.

    :-Dwight

  7. 7-5-2012

    Dwight yet Paul did not live by the flesh, even though he was in the flesh, he fought the flesh in others on a constant basis, trying to get them to see that living by fleshly means, this world is corruption, damnation. Yes to die is gain and be with God yet while here God is with you, Paul and all the believers trying to get each and all of us to see die to your flesh, and be alive to God stop this carnality, receive the meat of the word if God will permit. It takes each believers asking of this and you will go on unto perfrection Hebrews 5:11 through 6:6 and if God permits this will enlighten you and all that read it from God’s vantage point

  8. 7-5-2012

    Thanks, Howard. I certainly don’t mean that Paul lived ‘by the flesh’. I hope it didn’t come across that way. I only meant to say that, basically, Paul wasn’t being divisive when he was NOT doing the obvious works of unity, such as preaching, teaching, writing, or singing in prison. But, let us do ALL things to His glory and honor.

    I love those verses in Hebrews. Yes, let us share the thoughts of God, if God permits. Surely, we have tasted the goodness of the word of God. So, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity. Amen!

  9. 7-5-2012

    And an AMEN!!!! back to you as well, i knew what you meant, it is so easy though to get caught up in the fleshly thinking, where lies anger, emotions of all sorts of derailment that the enemy uses against the believers. So hopefully we all will learn to derail the enemy even at home behind closed doors, not us actually, but God through us who has already done so
    I love God the Father being our teacher through the Holy Ghost, and all of us sharing in love his love

  10. 7-5-2012

    Doug,

    Thanks.

    Jon,

    I’m not sure how this related to leadership. Of course, leaders can have problems with humility, and unfortunately the church today does not often recognize humility as a trait in leadership. But, I think this concept of humility must flow through all of us for us to live in the unity that we already have in Christ. But, if I’m misunderstanding you, please let me know what you meant.

    Dwight and Howard,

    Thanks for the discussion about leaders. The questions is not whether leaders are necessary. The question is who the church recognizes as leaders. According to Jesus, leaders are those who serve others, and thereby give an example for others to follow (i.e., in serving as well). Unfortunately, today, the church has decided to recognize leaders based on many other factors, and have redefined “service” to mean those particular factors.

    As far as the flesh is concerned… I do not think Paul intended for anyone to attempt to follow Philippians 2:1-4 by the flesh. So, that is not what I’m talking about either.

    -Alan

  11. 7-5-2012

    Thanks Alan this is a good open discussion keeping it in unity