Jesus Christ prayed for unity among His followers (John 17:21). But unity does not come automatically. Satan’s primary attack on believers has been to destroy oneness. This is very clear when you study church history. The Apostle Paul exhorted all true believers to make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). The oneness that our Lord prayed for was a kind of love and unity that would permeate and penetrate the lives of all who are exposed to it through words and deeds. Satan’s favorite tool and the basic cause of disunity is pride and selfishness among Christians. People do not want to serve one another in true humility. People want their own way and also want to be right!
Paul spoke of this problem in his various letters to the New Testament churches. He consistently pinpointed pride and selfishness as a basic cause – and advocated humility as a cure. In Chapter 12 of I Corinthians Paul illustrated spiritual oneness by using the example of the human body. No member of our physical body can boast that it does not need other members of the body. The same is true in the body of Christ – His Church. We all truly do need one another. We cannot ever think we are more important than others. If anyone does, they will destroy the unity Christ prayed for.
In Ephesians 4:2 Paul gave us the foundational rule for maintaining true unity. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing one another in love!” He further elaborates on every believer’s responsibility in Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice. Be kind you one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” When Christians maintain this attitude, Christ’s prayer for peace and unity will be answered in the church, in marriages and in all personal relationships.
The following Biblical exhortations, when practiced, will help lead to peace and unity:
1) Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Romans 12:10a
2) Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10b
3) Serve one another in love. Galatians 5:13
4) Carry one another’s burdens. Galatians 6:2
5) Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
6) Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances or problems you may have against one another. Colossians 3:13
7) Encourage one another and build each other up. I Thessalonians 5:11
1) Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Romans 12:10a
Our response to these biblical commands should be to examine our personal life to see if there are any we are violating. Be specific. Can you think of relationships with other Christians where you are not honoring them above yourself? Are there any Christians you cannot accept because of your disagreements and differences? Is there any Christian who has hurt you and whom you have not forgiven? God expects us to correct any situation that is in violation of His will and that is interfering with the unity and oneness that should exist between you and another Christian.
Evaluate all of your relationships in the light of the Holy Scriptures to make sure you are contributing to a proper reflection of God’s righteousness. Make every effort to be a peacemaker and to always speak the truth in love. The Bible is very clear in Galatians 6:10 that we are to do good to all people, and especially do good to other Christians. Does this describe your lifestyle? Are there any people you fail to love and do good to? The Apostle John wrote, “Dear children, let us love not with words or tongues, but with actions and truth. Do you apply this principle with your husband, your wife, and your children? How about your neighbors, even if you aren’t in complete agreement with them? James 2:8 clearly commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. People can be in disagreement and still do it with love.
We must recognize that this is one of Satan’s favorite areas of attack to destroy love, peace and unity among Christians. The devil is never more pleased than when he can reproduce his own characteristics in God’s people by influencing Christians to slander each other, spread rumors, be rude to, show no kindness to and be unforgiving to others. Nothing breaks down the unity of the spirit like these sins! They are the enemy’s favorite tactics and every Christian should strive to never let them gain even the slightest foothold in their life.
“These all continued with one accord (in unity) in Prayer and Supplication.”
What is the major focus of your life today? Are you growing or are you stagnant in your walk with God? Are you growing in Character, in Honesty, in Integrity, in Forgiveness, and in real Love toward others? The Laodicean spirit condemned in Revelation 3 is to not answer these questions honestly. It is to say I’m OK, when in reality you’re not overcoming temptation, attitudes, sin, and addictions that overwhelm you. How is your marriage? How is your family atmosphere and relationship with your children? What kind of joy and peace do you personally experience? Are you living a life of Godly contentment as commanded in the Bible? Real growth would mean that we are making progress towards the standards Jesus Christ has set for His disciples in these areas of life.
The Apostle Peter instructs us that we need something very crucial to our growth. I Peter 2:2 – “As new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby.” No spiritual discipline is more important than the consistent intake of God’s word. There is simply no healthy growth in your Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of scripture. Discipline yourself to find the time for spiritual nourishment if you want to be changed, if you want to become like Jesus Christ. Discipline yourself to read the Bible, to pray, to meditate, to memorize the scriptures. If your growth in Godliness were measured by the quality of your Bible intake, what would be the result? This is an important question, for the truth is, your growth in Godliness is greatly affected by the quality of your Bible intake – nothing will substitute for God’s word and its power to cause you to grow!
The purpose of our time spent feeding upon God’s word is to translate the truth that God’s spirit has imprinted on our mind into concrete action. All of the new perspectives, new priorities and new purposes we’ve begun to develop from meditating on God’s word, must be put into daily practice. The response God wants from us is not just knowledge, but obedience! We may not feel like doing what God wants us to do. We may not feel like Loving, doing good deeds for, speaking kindly about or forgiving and praying for our neighbor. We would rather sleep, watch TV, go shopping or just relax. We may not feel like treating our spouse with tenderness and kindness after an angry fight. We may find it easier to sulk and pout rather than forgive or ask forgiveness. We may not want to accept a tragedy in our life with thanksgiving. We would rather complain. Many times we may not want to believe that our Sovereign Loving Lord is in control of our circumstances and will work them out for good! We would rather worry or feel sorry for ourselves. These are the times when we need to go back to the truth we have learned through study and meditation and go over it in our minds. Then we must consciously and willfully choose to act in accord with God’s word, depending on the power which God’s Holy Spirit provides. This is how we grow! This is how we attain new levels of victory, joy, and peace!
Make a commitment today to spend more time in God’s word and hide it in your heart! Memorize and meditate upon the things of the Lord. Make it a priority to dwell on the principles of thought found in Philippians 4:7-8. Paul tells us in these verses that if you want the peace of God, which the world can’t understand, then you must think and dwell on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and worthy of praise! A regular diet of scripture will do wonders for your life! Remember God has called you to a life of spiritual growth and that your spiritual growth will be directly dependent on your consistent intake of the word of God as your spiritual food and your application of it in your daily walk with Christ! This is the road to spiritual growth – as well as unity, peace and joy in our daily lives.
Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key,
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Clara H. Scott (1841-97)