I’ve been thinking about unity a lot lately.
One day before Jesus would be crucified, He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed that we would be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one. Jesus prayed that we would be brought into perfect unity (John 17:20-23). Wow. It’s staggering to me that the night before Jesus was going to be crucified, our unity was on His mind.
Sometimes I wonder, “How is unity even possible in the church today?”
We have different denominational preferences, different cultural preferences, and different political preferences. Yet, we are one body. The bride of Christ. As I’ve been thinking about this and mulling it over in my mind, I went to a quote I read by Francis Frangipane: “If you seek to have a heart that does not condemn, you must truly crucify the instinct to judge.”
The root of the problem with unity is often our tendency to judge.
Jesus emphatically told us not to judge (Matthew 7:1-4).
In the gospel of Mark, there’s an interesting story (Mark 9:38-41). The disciples came to Jesus ‘concerned.’ They had come across a group of people casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but the problem was those casting out the demons were not part of the core group of the disciples. In a huff, the disciples wanted to correct the other group. Jesus’ response is so intriguing to me. “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:38-39). As I read this story, I can hear Jesus speaking, “They are claiming to be Jesus followers. They might have a different viewpoint than you on some piece of theology – don’t worry about them! You just worry about yourself and trust me!”
Honestly, I believe we are never more like Satan than when accusing others. That’s His job, not ours. Now don’t get me wrong, we are to be discerning about false doctrine in our own lives. However, we’re not called to judge the spiritual walk or theology of others. That we must leave to the Holy Spirit. If we’re in a position of authority, we can call for unity around certain core issues in our organization. However, we’re not called to be whistle-blowers on the entire body of Christ, labeling people and calling them out on social media. That is divisive and destructive.
The question then is how do we build up the unity of the church in these tumultuous times? Here are just a few suggestions.
3 Attitudes to Let Go of in Order to Build Up the Unity of the Body
Let Go of the Need to Share Your Opinion. Ah, we all have many opinions. Sometimes, we’re just dying to throw our pearl of wisdom on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Go very slow! When you’re tempted to throw your opinion in the ring of conflict, ask the Holy Spirit to guard your tongue (Psalm 141:3). Listen and pray before you say or post anything. Many issues are not as cut and dry as you might think. Read through the gospels and study how Jesus interacted with people. He wasn’t quick to point out other people’s faults.
Let Go of the Need to Be the Expert. Often without us realizing it, we’re looking for some type of validation when we are in conversations. It builds up our egos to be viewed as “the expert.” Instead, ask the Holy Spirit to crucify your need to be seen as the whizz in the group. Instead, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). When the Holy Spirit is in control of our lives, these attitudes will be evident.
Friend, Jesus feels passionate about our unity. Many issues have divided the church in recent years. However, let’s join Jesus in the garden and pray for unity. Ask God to remove a fault-finding spirit, the need to share your opinion, and the need to be seen as the expert. Consider how you want to be remembered. Do you want to be remembered as the person against everyone? Or as the person who loved well? I’m convinced that unity begins with one surrendered heart at a time. As we bow before the Father and ask the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, He will bring unity to the body.