The church-depicted as the “called out” of God, the “people of God,” the “body of Christ” and the “temple of the Holy Spirit” – is fitted for service or mission.
Unity is essential to the church because without it the church cannot successfully accomplish its mission. It is no wonder that the issue of unity was on Christ’s mind toward the close of his earthly life (John 17:21-22).
Jesus prayed for the unity of the church (John 17:21-22); Paul exhorted the believers about it (Rom. 15:5-6). How are we to understand unity as it is expressed in these texts? What does this unity mean?
The unity that Christ prayed for and that Paul exhorted the believers to attain clearly involved a union of feeling, thought, action, and much more. It is not a harmony that is achieved through social “engineering,” diplomatic management, or political subterfuge. It is a gift bestowed upon believers by the indwelling Christ (John 17:22-23) and kept by the power of God the Father (John 17:11).
There is no question that we are all different people, and we have different views regarding many things, views that can at times make unity difficult. Though stresses and strains are inevitable at every level of the church, we all need to keep an attitude of humility, self-denial, and a desire for a good that is greater than ourselves. So many of the divisions that arise do so because of selfishness, pride, and a desire to exalt oneself and one’s views over others. None of us has it all right; none of us understands all things perfectly. Whatever the inevitable differences that will arise, were we all to daily take up our crosses, daily die to self, daily seek not only our own good but the good of others and the good of the church as a whole, so many of the problems with which we struggle and which hinder the work would vanish.
In short, unity begins with each one of us, individually, as followers of Christ – not just in name but in a life of true self-sacrifice; a life dedicated to a cause and a good greater than ourselves.