The idea of unity is too fleeting to understand in a few paragraphs, a couple of sermons, or even a couple of Bible studies. Yet the idea is crucial to a healthy Christian community.
To be clear, true unity is impossible outside of the influence of Christ. Without Christ, we have too much pride, too much hate, too much selfishness. Even within a relationship with the Savior, we are too quick to point out the faults of others in the hopes of securing benefits for ourselves.
But unity, much like many of the virtues we strive to exemplify in our lives, is not given as much as it is learned, honed, and worked for. Several years ago, when I prayed for patience, God didn’t give me patience. He put me in situations where I had to learn to be patient. If we truly want unity in the church, we must pray for it and we must learn to be united in Christ.
Consider other key traits of the Christian life. Love. Humility. Service. Peace. All of these things contribute to unity. Consider the greatest commandment found in Matthew 22:37. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Imagine if we actually, consistently loved the Lord the way we were meant to. Would we be so concerned with what other people do “against” us? Would we be so concerned with the offenses of others we currently hold onto and use against them? Our offenses against a Holy, Righteous God are far greater than anything any one person can do against us. Let God’s example (casting our sins away) be a model for how we should treat one another. Forgiveness. Love.
Galatians 5:13 says that we should not use our freedom in Christ to indulge our flesh, but to serve one another humbly in love. Put others first. Put their feelings before yours. That means you have to give more consideration to your brother or sister and less for your own desires. If you let your plans, your ideas, your traditions, hold a position over others, you may have forgotten what it means to humble yourself.
In my own life, in situations where conflict and contention could pop up, I tell myself all the time “It doesn’t matter.” Just last year, I was asked to lead a service at an event. At the last minute, plans were changed and I was no longer leading. Did I get mad about it? NO! My purpose for leading was not to receive glory for myself. The purpose was to promote Christ and His kingdom. Although the plans had changed, the purpose remained focused on Christ. At the end of the day, the fact that I was not going to lead “didn’t matter.” Maybe we need to look at the conflicts in our lives and realize, “It doesn’t matter.” God is on the throne. He is still in charge. What does matter is that I am ready to respond to the Lord’s will, not my own pride.