“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3
It is becoming more important all the time in the church to strive toward unity with one another. Jesus prayed that His disciples (including us today) would be one even as He and the Father are one. Jesus’ desire is that we will be in complete unity. Why? So the world will know that the Father sent Jesus and see how much He loves us. What great love the Father has for us! Jesus showed us how to live in reliance upon His Father through prayer. He loved and served sacrificially. He came to bring peace within our hearts. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives… (John 14:27)”
Divisions in our country in so many ways have gone deep. Often we are displaying disunity in our words or actions. Many may have a different view from our own, but few are willing to listen first and then ask questions, engaging in meaningful and respectful conversation. We want to make sure our view is known and our voice is heard. It becomes so difficult for us to be patient and understand another viewpoint because we have our mind already made up, and we are ready to counter someone’s view at all costs, including the relationship.
The apostle Paul appeals to believers in Christ in several passages about having the character of humility (Phil. 2); that we would put away all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander, along with all malice (hatefulness). He tells us to be kind to one another, forgiving one another just as God also forgave us in Christ (Eph. 4:31-32). Also Paul says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person. (Col. 4:6)” We need to be careful with our words and actions: “Pay careful attention, then to how you live – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16)” If we are holding on to bitterness and unforgiveness in our heart, how will the love and peace of Christ and the fruit of His Spirit flow through us?
Our witness in the world flows from the attitude and posture of our heart. When we are angry or bitter toward someone either in the church or toward relatives or those in our homes, that disconnect can follow to other relationships around us – even toward the very people we are hoping to reach for Christ. James reminds us to be careful with our tongue. With it we can bless God, and with it we can curse people who are made in God’s image. How can these things be?
Nowhere does this happen more than within our own homes. It is easy to become angry and spiteful with those who are closest to us. We say that we are reconciled to God, but we cannot seem to reconcile our differences with one another. So much of it comes from our selfish desires and passions (James 4). I know I need to be reminded everyday about the primary purpose for which God created me: His honor and glory and spreading the fame of His name to all peoples. When I am in the disciple-making process and introducing others to the gospel of Jesus, it forces me to look outward and upward. I need to be dependent on Him and His Spirit to guide and help me. It isn’t something that is natural to me. I can get caught up in my own thoughts or desires and become selfish. I know that it requires prayer and looking less on self and more on Christ and His Spirit for guidance and wisdom.
When we look around us in our world and see the great divide that exists between so many, it is more important than ever to call out to God and ask Him to heal us, to prepare and equip us, so we can take the gospel of peace to the world. There is no greater purpose and lasting satisfaction than when we are sharing and showing the gospel of Jesus to those around us. When we listen intently to others, they will tell you about the struggles of their life. We all have them. Yet as believers, we are able to share the joy and peace that we have found in Christ: the freedom from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and someday, the very presence of sin. He promises to be with us until the end. May we draw upon His peace daily!