“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3
I’m guessing that even astronomical gas prices won’t stop many parents from packing up the car and taking the kids on a road trip for vacation this summer. And if the trip is more than 50 miles, you can already imagine the scene in the backseat: “Mom, he’s on my side!” or “Dad, tell her to stop doing that!” When the kids don’t get along, it drives their parents nuts and takes the joy out of the journey.
I often wonder: Does God feel that way about His kids? He has asked us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), and yet differences in gender, color, gifts, temperaments, roles, perspectives, preferences, and denominations threaten to wreck the unity that He intends for us to enjoy on the road to paradise. The psalmist had it right when he declared, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
A close look at Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1-26 sheds some light on how to grow up and get along. Just before His ultimate demonstration of love on the cross, Jesus prayed that His followers would be unified (John 17:11) and that they would be set apart by the truth of God’s Word (John 17:16-17). He continued, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one” (John 17: 20-21).
We can’t miss the connection between truth and unity. In fact, truth is the key ingredient of biblical unity. Truth is what unites us as believers: Truth about His deity. Truth about the message of salvation that comes by grace through faith in Christ alone. Truth that the Scriptures are the sole authority for faith and practice, and that they are without error and completely trustworthy.
Jesus goes on to indicate that unity is also built around righteousness. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17: 15-16). As His followers, unity comes when together we cling to the distinction between good and evil and seek to reflect the goodness of God in all that is pure and right.
What we know to be true about God’s Word and what we know to be true about how to live gives us a lot in common! And since Jesus is at the center of it all, He becomes the glue that makes us one. I might not be particularly drawn to you—your culture and background may be different than mine—but when I find out that you too are a follower of Jesus, His Word, and His Way, I find myself saying, “You too? Hey, let’s walk together!”
Being one in Jesus gives us the joy of bearing one another’s burdens, praying for one another, overlooking class distinctions, and casting the log out of our own eyes rather than focusing on the weaknesses of others. When we let the grand things we have in common override our petty differences, the backseat will be a happier place, and we can all enjoy the journey in peace!
- Read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1-26. Why do you think He earnestly prayed for unity among His followers? Read through the passage again making it your own prayer, and ask Him to reveal areas where unity may be lacking.
- What are some things that make unity in the body of Christ so challenging?
- Have you ever compromised truth and righteousness for the sake of unity? Ask the Lord to keep you strong in these areas, and seek input from a trusted pastor or church leader if you need help bolstering these components of your faith.
- Is there a fellow believer you find difficult to get along with? What can you do to pursue unity in that relationship?