Ephesians 4:1-6

             “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:  one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (NAB).
             The whole unity thing is quite important to God.  It isn’t just 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 but harboring animosity is not unity.  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.  
             Yesterday, I laid down the challenge of praying chapter one’s prayer daily for two weeks – doing it with another person in the church will bring about a common unity of purpose, mind, and heart.  If there is to be church revitalization, personal renewal, and national revival, it will begin in the prayer rooms of unified believers.
             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.  Amen.

Romans 3:21-31

            Every letter which Paul wrote had its purpose to address some particular problem(s) in the church.  A common situation that Paul continually went after was the disunity between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile believers.  The Roman church had within it both groups of people.  Paul’s great concern was to not establish and maintain two distinct churches based in ethnicity, but one church completely centered in the person and work of Jesus.
             The problem was that many of the Jewish Christians thought they had a leg-up by simply being Jews.  They tended toward a certain arrogance in which they took for granted that new Gentile believers must also adopt Jewish ways.  But the Gentiles fared no better.  They believed the Jews to be hopelessly stuck in their traditions and tended to look down on their brothers and sisters.
             Into this situation Paul makes it clear that no group of people is better than the other because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift.”  This kind of teaching was like a sonic boom to the church.  Although both Jew and Gentile were to appreciate one another’s differences, those differences were secondary to the grand design of the church to show no favoritism.  All are sinners.  All come to Christ by grace through faith.  There is no ground for human boasting of pedigree or practice.
             The Western church today finds itself increasingly within a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural milieu not too unlike the early Roman church.  Taking a good close look at the book of Romans would be a wise approach to fostering corporate unity and personal spiritual formation.  For then we will see ourselves through biblical lenses.
             Just God, you are the one who justifies based upon your own good pleasure.  Thank you for delivering me from my wayward beliefs.  Help me to appreciate your gracious justifying work more and more, to the glory of Jesus.  Amen.