“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21) .”
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. But with it, Jesus knew that nothing could stop his people from accomplishing the mission that he had set before them: 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 can ever get together in Spirit-enabled 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 actually practice and sustain unity?
The Apostle Paul gives us some insight in his words to one local church in Ephesians 4:1-3:
“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.”
Did you notice the 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 to guard our Christian unity. Why do we need holy zeal? Because Satan’s number one goal is to divide us. That’s why each Christian needs to take the 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 was brought in.
The little 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 very thing she had feared the kids would do, she had done. Before she could think of how to rescue that moment, however, a 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”
If you and I give every ounce of effort to keep the unity of the Spirit with other believers, we will make the church together!