Following the 2020 election cycle, many have commented on the division in our country. There have been many calls to set aside our political and ideological differences to pursue unity as Americans. Every time one side of the political aisle says or does something, the other side comes unglued. Things are not that different in the church as well. In The United Methodist Church, where I serve, we have been ministering under the shadow of a coming schism. We dissect every word or action (especially among leaders) to look for ulterior motives.
Yesterday in worship, I shared that the church’s foundation (and Christians) is the confession that Jesus is the Messiah. This confession is the source of our unity. However, unity often feels like trying to grasp sand at the beach; the harder we try to hold on, the more sand slips through our fingers.
What does it take to live in unity with our brothers and sisters who very likely don’t believe everything the same way we do?
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” This is an excellent sounding verse and highlights that unity is something we should pursue. Looking at this singular verse does nothing to instruct us how to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” We need to look at the context that Paul offers us.
“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, gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3 ESV)
Unity does not just happen. Lasting unity results from a commitment of diverse people to walk with one another informed by their faith. They must approach each other with humility, gentleness, and they must be patient with one another. They must bear with each other, not out of tolerance, but in love! If some of these phrases sound familiar, it is because there are, at least, five out of the nine Fruit of the Spirit that Paul list in Galatians 5:22-23. Unity will only be possible when both parties walk with each other in a manner worthy of their calling.
Thank you for the diversity that you have given us. Help us to appreciate and love the diverse people and experiences around us. Please lead us to work for unity amid diversity as we center our lives on Jesus. Amen.