What is unity?
Unity is primarily a spiritual union or bond between disciples of Jesus Christ that is effected by God Himself. Secondarily, it is about having the same mind and purpose.
Unity must not be confused with uniformity. Uniformity is about externals; unity is about internals – the spirit and the mind.
How is spiritual unity effected?
1. 1 Cor 12:13 – “For by one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” God has placed us in the body of Christ by the Spirit and we have been made to drink of the same Holy Spirit. There is a spiritual union between us by virtue of being placed in the body of Christ and by partaking of the same Holy Spirit.
2. John 17:22 – “And the glory which you gave me I have given them that they may be one just as we are one.” We have received this glory (Holy Spirit) from Jesus by means of which a spiritual union has been effected between us.
3. 1 Cor 10:17,18 – NLT – “And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. Think about the people of Israel. Were’nt they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar?” Communion is sharing in the body and blood of Christ. This makes us spiritually one or united since we are partaking of the same bread and cup. Every time we partake of communion, the spiritual union between us is reinforced.
We are spiritually united because we have Christ in us. The Christ who lives in me is the same Christ who lives in you. By virtue of having partaken of Christ, we are already united in spirit. Remember Ephesians 2:15 – Christ and the Jew is one new man; Christ and the Gentile is also one new man. Christ is all that matters and He lives in all of us (Col 3:11b).
What about unity of mind and purpose?
In Phil 2:2, Paul says “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Paul is speaking of unity of mind and purpose, not just with regard to the core elements of our faith but also with regard to other aspects of church and life. Having differing opinions is perfectly fine, but when it comes to issues where a common stand or decision is needed, it involves submitting our opinions to the opinions of others. I see that unity here is difficult because of the following reasons –
1. It involves submission to the church leadership although we may not agree with the decision or stand being taken.
2. It involves submission to one another – again although we may not agree with the decision or stand being taken.
There is never a problem with the core issues of our faith – it is always the non-core issues that cause disunity to manifest. We need to realise that we do not have to agree with everything that involves the church; we can still be united despite our disagreements. We can still stand firmly behind whatever decision has been taken although we may not agree with it. It just involves submission. This is why it is so difficult – our pride will be affected. Unity of mind and purpose has to be worked on – with God’s help, it is possible.
Jesus prayed to the Father to keep (protect) us through His name that we would be one just as Jesus and the Father are one.