We see what we choose to see.
I can look at the world in which I live and see the distrust and disunity that seems to plague the best efforts of men and women to create organizations and groups that function to help people.
This is a theme that is often played in the muted tones of gossip, damning with faint praise and other subtle ways of undercutting others. It is also a theme blasted at us like rap music by the ambitious and arrogant in their raw use of power to accomplish their self-serving ends.
Without the humility and warmth which you have to develop in your relations to the few, with whom you are personally involved, you will never be able to do anything for the many. Dag Hammarskjold in Markings
After 60 years of walking with companions as we follow Jesus I also hear a quiet theme. This is the music of unity and agreement that is becoming a swelling chorus in my mind and heart. I see unity forged in difficult circumstances in many places of the world. Leaping out at me from scripture is God’s positive response of unity to humanity’s negative spirit of division. A recent thought comes from a few verses in Paul’s letter to friends in Ephesus. Chapter four, verse sixteen uses some fascinating Greek words to encourage and explain the dynamics of unity.
“From Jesus the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
- Joined – sunarmologeo – To join closely together
- Held together – sumbibazo – to cause to coalesce, to unite or knit together
- Every supporting ligament – epichoregia – the full choreography
The source of supply of life is from the Head, Jesus Christ.
The members of the Body being joined and held together create the channel through which the supply of life flows. Thus, we are joined to Christ as our head and He systematically links us to each other. Because we are bonded in this way, as his life flows into us we experience God’s specific choreography for how we should move together. Being joined is the key – not the individual strength of the members. And being joined we are the instruments for building each other up in love.
Ephesians 4:3 encourages us to “Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force.” Our unity is a gift of the Spirit but we are to preserve and maintain the experience of unity. How do we do this? Fortunately, there are no “how to’s” so we are brought back to seeking direction from the One who gives unity.
One idea is to consider the parallel of the human body.
All parts are not connected to all the other parts. There is a specific place where each part is connected. Perhaps we are linked in the same way to the whole Body as we “submit to one other out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
Recently, I was in a group of men and was asked what a connected relationship of depth in the Body might look like. I’m sure it looks a little different for everyone who is reaching out for this deeper relationship. However, three things seem to be consistently part of the relationships that have this meaning for me.
- Each of us is consistently exposing our inner life to Christ in the Scriptures to allow him to re-make us from within. Then we are sharing with each other the way God is transforming our lives and the other person becomes part of this process of transformation.
- We find a natural mutual accountability that comes from what God is saying to each of us. This produces joy and freedom as we help each other be what God wants us to be.
- At some level, we begin to think together about the extension of the Kingdom in our world. The idea of being in “agreement” as Jesus taught in Matthew 18:19 has given us a way to care for our families and the people God brings into our lives.
A relationship of this nature requires a commitment of our lives to one another.
This usually means a great deal of time is spent together. However, once this way of relating to a few others begins to be a life style it is not restricted by geographical distance or limited time. When we experience this unity with a few where we are, we discover we can more readily enter into a similar relationship with those at a distance.
A few of us are given the role of encouraging the connections in the Body. The New Testament gives four ways this is done.
- Travel to be with someone for mutual encouragement in Christ. (Romans 1:11)
- Send a like-minded person who will encourage them as we would if we were able to be there. (Philippians 2:19-21)
- Communicate by letter, e-mail, phone, etc. Much of the New Testament is a result of Paul, Peter, Luke and others writing to encourage other believers.
- Paul had not even been to Colosse but he was linked by agreeing with Epaphras for the things they should be praying for those in Colosse. (Colossians 1:9-12). This is the most effective way to maintain our unity. It is also one of the most difficult and I fear one of the least practiced.
In summary, we are to heal the incidences of disunity by holding on to Jesus Christ; revel in being joined to each other; and experience God’s growth at God’s pace.