As I mentioned in my introduction post yesterday (“Unity: The Series“), this week I’m writing a series on the topic of unity among the body of Christ. 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.
(Note: Do not misunderstand my statement above. I am not under the misconception that everyone who claims Christ is actually in Christ. However, from reading Scripture, I think we begin by assuming that anyone who claims Christ is actually in Christ, and it is only in very extreme situations that we come to the conclusion that someone who claims to be in Christ is not actually in Christ. This is a point that requires even more in depth study, but it is not the point of this series.)
To begin with, we ARE united. There is only one body of Christ. We cannot choose who is in Christ and who is not in Christ – we do not have that authority. If someone is in Christ, then we ARE united with that person and in the Holy Spirit we DO have fellowship with that person. Period.
It would be easy to quote passage after passage of Scripture to prove this point. But, it’s really not necessary. Just pick a book of the New Testament and begin reading. Soon, you will come to a statement about our unity in Jesus Christ.
I believe that this must be our starting point when we think about unity. We ARE united.
But, when it comes to how we live our lives day in and day out, in general the body of Christ is not living as if we are united. In other words, we are not living in the reality of our unity and fellowship that we already have in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. We are living a lie.
And, for the most part, we have accepted the lie as normal and healthy. Even when Christians today work toward unity, they tend to work to unify certain subsections of the body of Christ. While these efforts may bring that particular subsection together, the efforts also often further separate that subsection from other parts of the body of Christ. Thus, often efforts that are intended to maintain unity actual produce or intensify division.
Unity is given to us by God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, but we are to work (yes, work) to maintain that unity.
Notice Paul’s focus on our efforts toward maintaining that unity that we already have in Jesus Christ:
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)
According to Paul, part of living in Christ (“walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”) includes the way that we respond to and interact with other people – especially people with whom we disagree: humility, gentleness, patience, love. Through this “work,” we maintain and live in the unity that God has already created.
I think its clear that in general we are not maintaining this unity.
So, we ARE united in Christ, but we are NOT living in that unity.
Series on Unity
- Unity: The Series
- We ARE united, but we are NOT united
- Doing the work of unity
- Doing the work of division
- Unity begins and ends in Jesus Christ