by Seth Ready of Seth & Nirva
If you’ve ever been part of a band, a team, or any organization large or small for that matter, you know how difficult it is to achieve and maintain unity. Unfortunately, the church is no exception, as anyone who has been in church very long can attest. It’s not difficult to see why, for right in the middle of the apostle Paul’s list of “works of the flesh” he names “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy” (Galatians 5:19). These are all detrimental to unity, and they are the default position of fallen human beings, including you and me. Putting a “church” label over an organization doesn’t magically unify it.
However, we do have the available resources to escape this otherwise inevitable plight. For in Christ, true reconciliation has already been achieved. If anyone in human history should have been unable to come together, it was the Jews and Gentiles in Jesus’ day. But as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:13-22, Christ even made those two irreconcilable groups into one new humanity through the cross. How much more should we embody this picture of unity across racial, denominational and cultural boundaries?
So if Christ accomplished this, why do we see so much disunity? The answer is basically the same as why we see sin in general in the Body, given that we “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”(Romans 6:18). It’s because we fail to walk in the Spirit. As it is written in Galatians 5:14-17, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whateveryou want.”
Certain individuals and groups in church history have shined very brightly by doing just what Paul commanded in this passage—not perfectly by any means, but to a much greater degree than we typically see. And the good news is, we have the same opportunity to live by the Spirit that they had. How do we do it? The basic answer is to spend time with the Lord via spiritual disciplines like Bible study, fasting, worship, service, prayer, fellowship, etc. The spiritual disciplines in and of themselves aren’t righteousness and don’t produce righteousness in a straightforward sense. They are simply a means by which we connect to God, and as we do, He progressively transforms us inwardly into the image of Christ.
Someone once said engaging the spiritual disciplines is like a boat hoisting its sail to catch the wind—in this case, the wind of the Spirit. There are so many challenges to this in the busy lives we live, but I would challenge you today to make this a priority, to put down the entertainment and social media and make space for God. As you do, over time you will notice a major change in your thoughts, desires and relationships. And as more of us in the Church do this, we will observe the unity that Christ accomplished on our behalf being beautifully displayed in increasing measure.