By Jerry Harris
Unity is central to the biblical message. Something special rises up when people from different circles get to know each other by learning, sharing, playing, and worshiping together. Sociologists call it “emergence.” It’s when a group becomes more than the sum of its parts. The Holy Spirit works in that unity, that oneness.
We are called to be one. The church is the hope of the world, and we can do far more together than we can apart. God has repeatedly shown us how unity can empower us to accomplish things that seemingly are impossible for individuals. Some examples might include building a building, launching a church, establishing a mission, impacting a city . . . you name it!
That’s awesome for a church, but on a personal level, unity carries the fingerprint of God. In Genesis 2:18, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
To help us understand the power of unity, God emphasized that something wasn’t good in the perfect world he created. When God created marriage, he showed the power of two becoming one flesh. He created the family . . . the nuclear small group and the most basic pattern of discipleship.
Sin destroys that unity. We saw fellowship with God broken in the Garden of Eden. We saw it when Cain killed his brother Abel. We’ve seen it in war, in greed, in envy, and in anger. But in unity, we have peace, harmony, and love.
Unity happens when we are at peace. I know words such as peace and harmony are cliché, but they also are powerful. Do you have a friend with whom you have things “in common”? The root word for that in Greek describes all the things we do in worship. To be “in common” is fellowship, Communion, prayer, and worship. Unity brings us peace with our beliefs and behaviors. (See Ephesians 4:3-6.) Unity brings us peace with our differences. (See Ephesians 2:14-16; Galatians 3:26-28.)
Unity happens when we are in harmony. (See Romans 12:16.) Harmony isn’t sameness; rather, it’s when all the beautiful differences work together according to God’s amazing plan. (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.) When someone in a band plays or sings a wrong note, it creates discord. Consider where there is discord or dissonance in our lives.
Are there areas where there are sour notes? We need harmony.
Unity happens when we are infused with love. Love is the mortar that holds the bricks of unity together; love is the catalyst of everything in the Christian life. (See Colossians 3:14.) When Jesus was asked to share the greatest commandment, he said all the commandments are bound up in this one thing—to love God and each other. To be unified with God and one another requires love, and so love is something for which we must fight. Fighting for love is necessary because sin is always pulling us apart from God and each other. So, we live in this tension, this never-ending battle between love and selfishness. (See 1 Corinthians 1:10.) We must all assess where we fall in the spectrum between love and selfishness.
Unity must be built on a strong foundation. Jesus connects us to the Father; our unity with him is what draws the world to its only hope. We connect to Jesus when we accept him into our life and he becomes our basis for unity. (See John 17:23.)
Unity is made possible through the gospel. Actually, the whole story of God and his creation is built on his desire for unity. He formed us with his hands and filled our lungs with his breath. He walked with us in the garden, but sin separated us.
He wasn’t willing for that unity to be broken, so he crafted a plan to bring us back into unity. That plan was to walk among us again by becoming human, and by teaching, healing, and loving his people. But these things still didn’t bring us close enough. So, he became the perfect sacrifice for sin through his death; and through his resurrection, the promise of the Holy Spirit came. He would always be with us, inside us, guiding us. But that still wasn’t close enough.
God’s plan has always been to bring us back—all the way back. (See Romans 6:5; Ephesians 1:9-10.) This is the greatest thing of all. God reversed the irreversible, redeemed the unredeemable, and healed the unhealable. No matter what we’ve done or how big a mess we’ve made, Jesus can make us whole again. He can cancel our debt, set us free, and bring us into complete unity!