‘So we need to look at how we can work together, united in our faith, in the love of God and who we are in Christ, while still maintaining our individuality and differences’
Last time I looked at how unity is not uniformity, and the importance of unity especially in relationship. This week I’m looking at some of the things that get in the way and how we can overcome them to walk in God’s idea of unity.
A lyric that keeps coming to my mind as I write this is in ‘Big bright beautiful world’ from ‘Shrek – The Musical’. In this song, Shrek’s mother is explaining that he will have life of being chased and hated because ‘people hate the things they can’t understand’. It is such a poignant line in an amusing song and it catches me each time I hear it. Although it is incredibly sad how often this is true – we’re afraid of the unknown so we react out of fear, because we don’t take the time to see past differences.
On countless occasions I have missed out on the blessing of unity because I was afraid. I meet people who are different in the way they think, act, look, or behave and it’s easy to feel uneasy and threatened by these differences. Why? Because this unknown factor scares me as I don’t (yet) understand them or the way they act. This attitude is wrong and this is an area where I know the enemy takes great delight at getting in the way of relationship and working together. The Bible is full of examples of how God wants us to walk in unity, but we need to get out of our comfort zone. Check out Colossians 3 vs13-14, John 17vs23 and Psalm 133vs 1. When we focus on our differences, then we’ll see these as insurmountable barriers and stubbornly refuse to look at how to overcome them. It’s only when we submit to God by asking for His strength, wisdom and humility, love, and understanding, that we’ll start to see people through the eyes of love.
In our own strength, walking in unity is incredibly difficult, but with Gods strength it is not only possible but transformative. Let’s not be overcome with the fear of the unknown that we miss out on the blessing. This won’t mean we do the same thing or even totally agree on everything but that we should not dismiss other people’s views or ideas as inferior just because they are contrary to ours. 1 John 4 vs 18 says ‘Perfect love drives out fear’, let’s seek to walk in Gods perfect love, to see people through His eyes and not eyes of fear.
A fundamental requirement to walking in unity is living by the Holy Spirit, for He clothes us with the fruits of the spirit ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (Galatians 5vs 22-23). These are the characteristics we need in the quest for unity, but they come through God’s provision alone.
We need the challenge to change our opinion on the ‘differences’ and to not see these as a negative, but as a blessing. A common saying is ‘if we were all the same the world would be a boring place!’, so let’s celebrate the variety of characters, personalities, gifting, abilities, dreams and hearts. Let’s give each person value and the due love and respect just as is lavished on us by the Father. Let’s remember that we were all made in the image of God (Genesis 1vs 27). He created humour, logic, thoughtfulness, kindness and creativity, so let’s delight in the different expression of these things. If we were to see these differences as treasures rather than stumbling blocks can you just imagine how much the atmosphere would change.
Something I have learned through being married is how wonderful it is working as a team. We differ so much in many things but through love, a huge amount of patience (mostly on Ali’s side!), communication, discussion (argument!) we challenge and encourage each other, allowing ourselves to be stretched and refined. It can be incredibly difficult sometimes, but it is necessary for us to grow in our relationship – our understanding of each other and learning how best to love and serve the other. Ali’s patience, gentleness, logic and humour compliment my creativity, encouragement, passion and vision, when we work together in God’s strength then we are a strong team, supported and blessed.
This reminds me daily of how God wants us to walk as a church – the body of Christ. We need to take time to love one another, understand each other, and allow our strengths to help someone in their weakness. We need to be accepting of people with different backgrounds, characters and gifting to work together in the knowledge that we are all loved by God and celebrate these differences. I remember with a smile the talent show at our Church weekend away, and the international evenings at my old church, where people come together and celebrate each other. The feelings of love, support and encouragement there are fantastic. So let’s take that into our everyday lives and situations. Remembering it is not in our strength but God’s alone.
I want to wish you a blessed and exciting 2016! May God fill you anew with his peace, joy, love and strength, that you would know how loved and special you are and walk forward this new year in the assurance and confidence of the love of God.