Read: John 17
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:20-21, NLT)
Jesus spent his last hours on earth praying desperately for the unity of his church. He knew that without unity, the church would fall apart. With unity, however, Jesus knew that nothing could stop his people from accomplishing the mission of reaching the world with the Gospel.
That is the power of unity. The great preacher Vance Havner once said, “Snowflakes are frail, but if enough of them get together they can stop traffic.” So it is with the church. If we get together in unity, we’ll stop the traffic in our community.
The question is, since we all agree that unity is a powerful and a necessary thing, how do we move from agreement to action? How can we practice unity? The Apostle Paul provided some powerful insights in his words to the church in Ephesus:
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 1:1-3)
Did you notice that word, “effort”? Paul says we are to “make every effort” to attain and maintain unity in our church. Frankly, it takes hard, focused, continual, intentional and strategic effort individually and corporately to keep the church united as one.
The word “effort” means to be diligent, to be zealous, to make haste to do something, in this case, being eager and fully dedicated to maintain the unity of the Spirit. It refers to a holy zeal in guarding our Christian unity. Why do we need holy zeal? To counter Satan’s unholy zeal in dividing us. Satan’s number one goal for the church is disunity. That’s why each Christian needs to take personal responsibility for the spiritual unity of his or her church.
James Hewitt tells the story of one woman’s unforgettable experience teaching Vacation Bible School with her primary class. The class was interrupted one day about an hour before dismissal when a new student, a little boy, was brought in. The boy had one arm missing, and since the class was almost over, she had no opportunity to learn any of the details about the child’s disability or his state of mind. She was afraid that one of the other children would make a comment and embarrass the poor little guy, and there was no time to warn them to be sensitive.
As the class time came to a close, she began to relax. She asked the class to join her in their usual closing ceremony. “Let’s make our churches,” she said. “Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and there’s…” Then the awful reality of the situation hit her like a ton of bricks—the one armed boy couldn’t make a church with his hands. The very thing she’d feared the kids would do, she’d done. As she stood there speechless, however, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, “Hey Davey, let’s make the church together”
That is what we need to do—make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit with other believers. As we do, we will make the church together!
“We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately” ~Benjamin Franklin.
What If God Took Over?
There is nothing more important to a Father than the unity of his family. Do you give much thought to that? What strategic and intentional part can you play to attain, maintain and increase the unity of the spirit through the bonds of peace in your spiritual community?