How Can One Person Promote Unity? (Original Post: February 15th, 2018)

Fractions within the church are deeply personal. In many cases, these fractions have caused people to leave the church altogether. It is easy to feel lost in the midst of these divisions in the church. The church is meant to be our safe place and when it isn't we feel great uncertainty about what actions to take to help. Yet even in the darkness, one individual can contribute positively. One person can be a unifying voice in the midst of the dissension. One person can contribute to unity, but one person cannot accomplish unity on their own. Unity within the Church can only be accomplished when individuals practice grace and compassion within community when the Church emulates Jesus' humble example, and when reading and obeying the word of God is a top priority. 

Human beings were created by God for fellowship with one another. Community provides one of the clearest ways to encounter the grace of God in our lives. This was made clear when God stated “It is not good for man to be alone” in Genesis 2. In most cases, people begin to isolate themselves after they are hurt by the church. Isolation within the church is one of the key factors in disunity development. The popular idiom; “hurt people, hurt people'' has an underlying truth to it, but the better phrase would likely be; “all people, hurt people”. Jesus is the only man who treated each person perfectly in His time on earth. One of Jesus' most common proclamations to his disciples was a reminder to love one another. Today, we exist in the most isolated and independent time in history. We don't rely on others in the same way previous generations needed to in order to survive. Our self-reliance has slowly deteriorated into self-indulgence, even inside the walls of the church. We seek grace from the pastor's message, from the worship team, and from the smiles we receive from others as we walk out the door. This form of Christianity finds its success or failure in what “I” receive out of going to church. Grace doesn't work in self-indulgence. Grace is shared among a fellowship of like-minded people working through their differences and growing to love each other. Grace factors into unity in Paul's famous line in Romans 5:8; “Christ died for us.” This beautiful “us” Paul is referring to is worth fighting for and believing in. We come together and find the best of ourselves when we lay down our self-indulgence and fight for others' greatness above our own. Isolation and division are only broken down in the confines of trust and compassion. Compassion is actively choosing to respond with grace to someone else's pain. It's a picture of coming underneath someone and lifting them up. Compassion is neither passive or free, it requires something from you. 

Jesus is the head of the church and all things were made through Him. No one can contribute to unity 

like Jesus. The humility of Christ provokes us to emulate His example. In order to emulate Christ, we must change the way we look at the church and at ourselves. Philippians 2 is one of the clearest passages in the Bible on humility. In the passage, Paul speaks on “lowliness of mind” and “esteeming others as better than ourselves”. Lowliness of mind is not immaturity, but a practical childlike faith that places love as the highest goal. When love is prioritized it matters more than being the smartest person in the room. The greatest resistance to unity within the church is each person's individual pride. This is why Paul exhorts the Philippian church to change their mindset to be like Christ Jesus. Jesus was the most intelligent person who ever walked upon the earth, and yet He carried himself with complete humility and kindness. To esteem another above yourself is to love as Jesus loved. Jesus did not die for us in our best moment, rather He died for us when we were yet sinners. Outside of the church people are capable of loving each other when they have reason to, but we as Christians are called to love beyond what is deserved. We love one another in our weaknesses and in this we accomplish humility towards one another. 

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. In God's word, we find our greatest hope for unity. Christians all over the world unite around God's word in a variety of circumstances and challenges. God's word sifts through our intents. When we emphasize God's word we allow God to sift our intents and motives. We enable God to unite us in obeying His guidelines for unity. Leaders within the church are wise to prioritize God's word above any self-help books or worldly ideals towards unity. Within the church, God's word functions as an anchor, setting boundaries and providing clarity. The church must not only read the Word of God, but we must also obey the Word. Jesus' brother James' exhorted the church in his day to not only be hearers but also doers. Unity in the church happens when the Bible is living and active in us. As we embody the word to one another, we unite in the fellowship of God. 

Unity within the church cannot be accomplished by one person's strength or zeal. It requires grace, compassion, unity, and an emphasis on the word of God. One person can contribute to unity by embodying the character of Jesus Christ. By emulating Christ, we encourage others to seek His face and obey His word. It changes the conversation from what we want our church to be like to who we want our church to be like. The wounds of disunity and brokenness were put upon the cross with Jesus. His words still echo through time into our hearts today, as we remember His sacrifice. He laid down His life for us so that we may lay down our lives for one another. In this sacrifice we find unity.

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