“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all”. Ephesians 4:1-6.
In this letter, the Apostle Paul calls the Ephesian church, composed of Jews and Gentiles, to unity. Obviously, there were serious disagreements between them that threatened the unity of the church. This situation was not an exception, but rather, a rule for many churches of the first century. It remains relevant today, twenty centuries later. That’s why the New Testament addresses this issue multiple times (Col. 3:8-15, John 17:23).
When several people gather together, the conflict is inevitable. Because human nature is divided, it produces conflict within the man and with the outside world. In addition to this, we all have our own tastes and habits, our own mind and education, feelings and temperament. But in spite of these differences, we can and we must strive for the restoration of unity created by God before sin.
What is unity? It’s not a general spirit of friendliness. Unity is a fruit that the Apostle Paul speaks about. It’s the fruit of the cross and God’s work in Christ, without which the unity between Christians is impossible.
Our body has different organs, each of them serving its own function, but they are all interdependent of each other to sustain life. The Church is a spiritual body in Christ; therefore, she must be similarly organic and living.
Unity is not uniformity, but it’s diversity. We cannot all think alike, talk alike, carry the same ministry; we are not robots after all! But we are all moved by One Spirit towards fulfilling the same goal in accord with the creative purpose of God. The Holy Spirit encourages us to learn the “truth of Christ,” and to always remember what Christ has done for us on the cross. Looking at the cross, we realize that Jesus died not only for my family and me, but also for every person on earth. He loves everyone with the same love, regardless of their race and social level. Each person is valuable in God’s eyes, and we must value and accept each other just the way we are.
We are not capable of loving others with the same kind of love, but walking in obedience before God and denying ourselves in the desire to rise above others, we shall produce fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faith, meekness and temperance that are the strongest antidote to disruption. (Galatians 5:22-23).
In a world torn by strife and selfishness, hatred and inhumanity, where people assert themselves at the expense of others, the Church should bring light. When new people come to the Christian community and witness harmony and love among its members, they want to have the same thing and come again. But if the Church is divided into groups, each insisting on their righteousness, how can we testify to others about God’s love? People are sensitive to hypocrisy; they cannot be deceived by false acting. Often, we give in to temptation to judge others with a different understanding of faith, to look for mistakes and criticize confident of our knowledge of the Gospel. We find verses in the Bible that confirm our position saying: “If you don’t agree with me, you don’t believe the Bible”. We think that if we are tolerant of those who differ in their opinions, we fall away from the truth of God. However, we completely forget Paul’s advice: “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters” (Romans 14:1). We often forget that the Bible was written personally for us; that we ought to strive keep our own temples in order instead of keeping an eye on other people’s lives. Our own limitation, stubbornness and intolerance only alienate non-believers and new believers from Christianity. How much better it is to ignore the differences, and think about those precious truths that unite us!
Spiritual unity is not only faith in Jesus Christ, but it’s the union of sentiments, desires, kind feelings and attitudes worthy of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul said that we are tied by the bond of peace, where everyone’s interests are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are called to preserve the unity of spirit with meekness and love; this is only possible if we constantly meditate on the Word and pray.
Our God is the God of peace, Christ is the Prince of Peace, and the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of peace in us. Uniting with Jesus, we bear the proof of promises to be fulfilled for the whole world. As the Church of firstborns (Hebr. 12:23), we have the right for blessings, but at the same time, we are also accountable for our ministry in the name of unity of all humanity. May God help us stay true to Him!