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. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (New International Version)
In the economy of God, unity isn’t a privilege but a necessity. Unity is not an ancillary or side issue to the real work of the Church and the Christian life; it is very much at the center of Christianity.
Christians have been fashioned through the Holy Spirit into a single harmonious religious community of redeemed people, called to exemplify a counter-cultural presence in the world.
There is a solid theological reason for this: God is one. Just as the triune God exists as one deity in three persons, so the church is to reflect God’s image through its unified oneness.
Although unity has been accomplished through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, the practical implications must be daily worked out. This is why we are to strive, or to put significant effort into, having unity.
Simply getting along outwardly with someone or some group, while inwardly harboring animosity toward them, is not unity. Just because two people are not at each other’s throats does not mean there is peaceful unity.
Unity only occurs when the Body of Christ works together in its diverse gifts toward a common goal of knowing Christ and making him known… with humility.
In yesterday’s blog post on Ephesians 1:17-19, I laid down the challenge of praying chapter one’s prayer daily for two weeks. To up the ante on the prayer, try doing it with another person in the church. Having a common unity of purpose in mind and heart through prayer is a beautiful thing.
In fact, if there is to be any sort of church revitalization, personal renewal, and national revival, it will begin in the prayer rooms of unified believers who share a common love for God and neighbor, a similar attitude of humility and gentleness, and a shared commitment of showing patience toward others.
This is the way of unity and peace. And it requires a great deal of effort to unpack these gracious spiritual gifts which have been mercifully given to us.
Unity is at the center of the earliest ecumenical creeds of the Church. The early church fathers (and mothers) wisely discerned the great importance of a unified faith and striving toward peace with all believers.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father….
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son….
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. – The Nicene Creed
There is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.
And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so, we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons….
Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ.
He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity.
He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures.
For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man. – The Athanasian Creed
Since God is one, we are to be one people. This is the path of peace. One God. One people. There cannot be unity and peace apart from humility.
Invalidating a person’s feelings or thoughts does no one any good. It happens because of pride and a profound lack of humility.
Imagine going to see a doctor who turns out to be arrogant. He doesn’t really listen to you. He just gives a quick exam and offers his diagnosis with a regimen of more pills to take. You’re left sitting there while he’s off to another patient, colonizing another person’s mind and emotions with his expertise.
I’m not giving doctors a hard knock. I know many physicians, and they do wonderful compassionate work. Yet, it’s likely that you, like me, have had that occasional experience of the doctor, all full of themselves, having all the right answers on your pain and situation.
You may have also had the unfortunate experience of having a pastor, therapist, or counselor assess your situation with little information and even smaller compassion. Like writing a script for pills, they give you a few Bible verses and tell you to quit sinning and live obediently.
If pride and arrogance are the original sin, then the remedy to that malady is humility. No matter who we are – whether doctors, pastors, laypersons, patients, or whomever – we are meant and designed by our Creator God to live a humble life.
Humility is the cornerstone to the unity and peace we desire. Jesus said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3, NIV)
The door of God’s kingdom swings-open on the hinges of humility. The Apostle Paul, seeking to follow his Master Jesus in his teaching and humility said:
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NLT)
Basic human kindness with one another is grounded in humility.
The beauty of a humility-based existence is that multiple people discover together how to grow, thrive, and flourish in a situation where it isn’t currently happening. Breakthroughs occur in the soil of humility when all voices are heard and given weight.
We live with the confidence of the Psalmist:
“God leads humble people to do what is right and teaches them the way.” (Psalm 25:9, GW)
In the end, it’s a common commitment to exercise humility which realizes unity and enjoys peace.
May it be so, to the glory of God and for the sake of the world.
Blessed Holy Trinity, the God whom I serve, may your church on earth be one as you are one. I pray our unity of love and purpose will transform individuals, churches, organizations, systems, and the entire world for the glory of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.