Humble: ‘May they be one’

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one — as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me … May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” — John 17:21-23

“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” — Ephesians 4:3-4

Unity. Our unity with one another and with God was the cry of Jesus’s heart for us the night before his crucifixion.

Unity. Our unity — bound together with peace, a life worthy of our calling — was the apostle Paul’s plea to God’s people from prison.

How much are we concerned about unity? Do we share Jesus’s burden and Paul’s burden so deeply the longing for unity is with us even in times of great pressure and distress?

Thankfully, I have seen a growing concern for unity among those who claim to follow in my lifetime. Many of us worked toward unity here in our community.

However, true unity comes from practicing unity, beginning in our relationships in the home, on the job, in the church and in the community.

“Keep yourselves united in the Spirit …” reads Paul’s exhortation. Other translations say, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit” (NASB), “making every effort to preserve” (MLB), and “eager to maintain” (ESV).

We who trust in Jesus have been joined together by the Holy Spirit. We have been united as members of one body in Christ — not according to our own choice, but placed in the body according to God’s choice (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18-20).

Romans 12:4-5 says, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”

This unity is stunningly complete. We together make up the one body of Christ; thus, Paul prays in Romans 15:5-6, “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In Philippians 1:27, Paul exhorts us, “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.”

Jesus set the bar even higher when he prayed  we would be one with each other as the Father and Son are one — in perfect unity — in John 17.

Our unity, Jesus prayed, reveals God’s glory. It is this glorious unity that brings revelation to the world so they may believe the Father sent Jesus and so they may know God’s love.

The key to keeping the unity that is already ours in Christ is having the right attitude and expressing it in our behavior.

We are one body in Christ. Therefore, according to Scripture, we keep the unity by patience and forbearance, by keeping short accounts, by being slow to anger, by refusing to take offense, by being quick to forgive and to keep on forgiving, by thinking of others as better than ourselves and by looking out for the interests of others.

Our God-given assignment, as stated in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, is to bring the word of reconciliation and to exercise the ministry of reconciliation with those who have not yet trust in Christ.

How we can who have believed in Jesus expect to fulfill that assignment unless we are not willing to reconcile with one another?

We live in a world that desperately needs to see a living demonstration of God’s the glory of God’s love, grace, mercy and peace. Where will it be seen if not in us?

Steve Humble has been an elder at Winchester Covenant Church since its beginning in 1991. He can be reached at 771-7138 or  steve.humble@twc.com. Scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation unless noted otherwise.