Tuesday, 17 April 2012

unity? A breakfast topic...

I wrote this a while back, just after our last ladies' breakfast...

The end of term is looming – a time when there are more squabbles than normal, disagreements, arguments and ‘fights’ of varying descriptions.  Friends fall out and there is a more fraught atmosphere than usual. That’s just among the staff, let alone the children...!  I am of course just joking, but stress and busyness do bring challenges, not least that it becomes harder to maintain a cooperative atmosphere. It becomes too easy just to concentrate on one’s own tasks and aims. In school, we start to lose the wonderful sense of unity which normally characterises our institution.

Isn’t one of the greatest challenges to the church today unity?  Nothing new there.  Even at the time of Paul, he was writing in his letters urging churches and even specific individuals - Euodia and Syntyche, for example – to get along with each other and to live in peace.
Paul prays for unity often - in Romans 15:5 he says:  ‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus...’

Sounds good, but why?  It’s because Jesus says so:
‘I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.John 17:23, NIV
Jesus and the Father are one – and so we are called to be one because of Jesus.

Studying Ephesians 4 recently, I was so struck by the command to be at one with each other: (Jesus)... handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ (vv 11 – 13, The Message)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love....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 and in all. (vv 2-6, NIV)
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body.’ (v25, NIV)
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (v3NIV) Emphasis added.

But how do we do this?

Paul gives an ‘easy’ answer:
‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ Ephesians 5:21, NIV

Easier said than done! I was still left wondering ‘how’ when I came across this, from Colossians 3:13 – 17
‘So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.’ (The Message)
Paul gives quite a few tips:
 ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3, NIV)

‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ Romans 12:18
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit... Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.’ Romans 14:17, 19, NIV

Peace. Easier said than done, but so necessary: yes, we know we have to keep the peace and get along with each other, but how?

Honour Christ
put others first. (Ephesians 5:21, Contemporary English version.)  Sound familiar?

Yes, but how?
Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. (Ephesians 5:21, The Message)

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
‘ Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.’ (2 Corinthians 13:11, NIV)

Yes, but HOW?

As I read all these verses on peace and unity, I realised that, if we just submitted to each other, loved each other with the same love with which Christ loved us, we would indeed live in peace and unity. Echoed so beautifully in the first verse of the Kenyan national anthem:
O God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders...

Look at these verses: UNITY

Romans 12:5
so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:16
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:9
The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Romans 14:13
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Romans 14:13
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

1 Corinthians 1:10
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

1 Corinthians 12:13
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

1 Corinthians 12:14- 19
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many....
But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Philippians 2:2
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

So what are 'unity spoilers'?

Money: remember the parable of the rich fool? It spoiled the relationship between two brothers.
Jealousy and envy; anger: pride

When there is DISunity, do we make excuses for ourselves?  We say ‘ Yes, I know I did... but she ......’  This is where we need to be accountable to each other: Hebrews 3:13
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Hebrews 10:24-26
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

So let’s admit fault: pick ourselves up: and carry on, knowing that Jesus has forgiven us.

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