By Juan Sanchez
The unity of the church is vital for our endurance. We’re not meant to live the Christian life in isolation.
And it’s vital for our witness; Jesus authorized the unbelieving world to judge whether or not the Father sent Him into the world based on the church’s visible unity (John 17:21).
But, how do we know when we’re called to fight for the unity of the church and when we’re called to fight for the faith once for all delivered to the saints?
Because we, the church, are the display of God’s glory and wisdom (Ephesians 3:10), we must fight to maintain Christian unity (Ephesians 4:1-3).
But this call for unity is based on the one gospel that reveals the Triune God (Ephesians 4:4-6): the one Spirit who has called us out of death into life (Ephesians 2:1-10), the one Lord who has reconciled us to God and one another through his blood, making the one body (Ephesians 2:11-22), and the one Father who planned our salvation from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-14).
If we are to maintain the unity the Spirit has given us during times of conflict, we must cultivate the same qualities found in our Lord Jesus.
In Ephesians 4:2-3, Paul highlights five of these qualities that are necessary to maintain the church’s unity.
Humility has to do with not thinking of yourself as better than others. It’s the opposite of pride—assuming that everything and everyone exists for your joy and satisfaction.
Of course, there’s such a thing as false humility. It seeks to draw attention to itself. True humility is rooted in a right-thinking of God and self.
If your whole world revolves around you, you’re proud, and pride destroys unity like nothing else.
Instead, we are to have the same mindset as our Lord Jesus, who, though God the Son, humbled himself, took on our humanity, and became a servant to die on the cross for undeserving sinners (Philippians 2:5-11).
God opposes the proud, but he will exalt the humble.
Gentleness has to do with considering others, forfeiting your rights. Today, many people think only of themselves. Sadly, these attitudes have crept into the church.
Professing Christians are often harsh or rude to those who are different. Some ridicule those with whom they disagree. But, remember Jesus’ heart toward sinners.
He was gentle and lowly of heart (Matthew 11:29). And we are to reflect the gentleness of our Lord, whether we’re restoring repentant sinners (Galatians 6:1) or, as pastors, correcting our opponents (2 Timothy 2:25).
Imagine how many conflicts we might avoid if we responded with a gentle answer? By our gentleness, we may know that we are filled with the Spirit of Christ (Galatians 5:23).
Patience has to do with bearing other’s shortcomings and faults, their weaknesses and failures. How patient are we with those who disagree with us? How long do we suffer those who think differently?
The Lord has been patient with us (1 Timothy 1:16), so let us be patient with one another. If the Spirit of Christ dwells in us and fills us, we too will be patient (Galatians 5:22).
God both displayed and defined love for us at the cross of Christ (John 15:13; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9). Love is the soil in which we are established and grow in Christ (Ephesians 3:17; 5:2). If the Spirit of Christ dwells in us, we will be loving (Galatians 5:22).
By our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we will show that we belong to God and are born again (1 John 4:7-12).
We are to zealously maintain the unity of the Spirit (v.3). We don’t create the church’s unity; the Spirit does when He brings us into the one body.
We’re only called to maintain that unity and to do so eagerly. Are we genuinely zealous in fighting for the church’s unity? Or are we more zealous in fighting for our own rights, privileges, and preferences?
You may be tempted to think that a global pandemic, a presidential election, and civil unrest are threats to the church’s unity. They’re not.
They’re opportunities to cultivate these Christlike qualities in us and our church members because we cultivate these qualities during times of conflict.
As you’re driving down the road, you don’t need patience if there are no other cars on the road. You need patience when there are cars in front of you going below the speed limit or not observing the traffic laws.
That’s when you cultivate patience, speaking truth to yourself and resting in the good news of Jesus Christ.
If we cultivate these qualities that are found in our Lord Jesus and that the Spirit produces in us, we will be empowered to walk in a manner worthy of our call and pursue Christian unity.
The result will be a visible peace that binds us together and displays the wisdom and glory of God to an unbelieving world.
JUAN SANCHEZ (@manorjuan) is the senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church. His latest book is The Leadership Formula: Develop the Next Generation of Leaders in the Church.