Division and conflict among Christians and in the church can be heartbreaking and confusing.
I’m saddened when I see brothers and sisters in Christ fight over denominational differences, losing sight of our common ground—our salvation, based on God’s grace towards us (Romans 3:23).
Christians may differ in their expression of worship and by our particular denomination of Christianity, but there’s one truth we can’t dispute—God wants us to dwell together in unity.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to create unprecedented unity among believers. Paul tells us unity is found through the grace of God, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
When we see others through the eyes of grace as God sees us, then we allow the Holy Spirit to do His work to produce fellowship among believers.
There’s a reason Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:3 “to make every effort” to maintain unity, and in the verse before “to be completely humble, gentle, and patient and “bear with one another in love.” We are easily filled with pride and selfishness. We can’t be humble, gentle, and patient without allowing the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts and help us communicate and act in love.
“Bearing with one another in love.” Bearing means to endure, hold up, and sustain.
The same holds true in marriage. The Bible often uses the imagery and symbolism of marriage to describe the relationship between God and Israel in the old testament and the relationship with Jesus Christ and the body of believers (church) in the New Testament.
“The divine reality hidden in the metaphor of marriage is that God ordained a permanent union between His Son and the church. Human marriage is the earthly image of this divine plan. As God willed for Christ and the church to become one body (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:13), so He willed for marriage to reflect this pattern—that the husband and wife become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-metaphor-of-christ-and-the-church)
Even when both spouses are Christians, it takes hard work to learn how to communicate and maintain marital unity. We can follow Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians—to rejoice, strive for full reconciliation, encourage one another, be of one mind, and live in peace (2 Corinthians 13:11).
The Holy Spirit helps us maintain unity and get along, but we have to be willing to do our part to maintain peaceful relationships. We do this by loving others with the same encouragement, love, and fellowship we have received from Christ.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called, one Lord, one faith, one baptism: one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6).
“If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit…make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2).
God has given every believer abilities and gifts that can strengthen the church. Thinking of ourselves as one body creates unity. Each person works together for the common good of the whole.
May we never forget the grace we have received from you when we feel strongly about a dividing issue in the church. Father, I pray you would give me a humble heart and a forbearing spirit that seeks to understand, love, and show mercy. Help me to be patient when I disagree and make every effort to keep unity. Thank you for the gift of fellowship and the body of believers meant to be my brothers and sisters in Christ. May we encourage one another with compassion, gentleness, and kindness. I pray nonbelievers would see how we treat each other and sense the unity and joy we find in our salvation. In Jesus Name, Amen.