Tag Archives: unity

The Church: a temple

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

The Church is not a building. God’s people, however, are a temple for the living God. Did I lose you?

In Ephesians 2:18-22, we’re told that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone for the Church and that the foundation was laid by the Apostles. That’s construction talk, but it’s not literally talking about a church building. We, together, are the temple of the Lord. You’re not the temple, I’m not the temple. WE are the temple.

How can God’s temple be holy (v.17) if we’re each so sinful? How can we be the dwelling place of our Lord if we’re stained and tainted? We’re unworthy to be called His people, let alone His dwelling. The Spirit dwells in us collectively, though. It’s because of His presence, because of the righteousness instilled by Christ, that we’re given the privilege of being a home for God.

The holiness of Jesus is the starting point of this Church, laid upon the foundation which came with God’s commission to His people. And I’ll let Paul finish by saying, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) Find comfort in the fact that all together we make up the temple of God, which He swears to protect.

Forgiveness takes away the enemy’s weapon

Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. 

There are few things our enemy the devil hates more than a unified body of believers in Jesus Christ. He can’t stand to see God working through people who love one another and bear each other’s burdens. His strategy is to divide us.

We’ve all been to churches where there’s disunity. Maybe someone didn’t like the choice of colors for the new carpet or maybe someone got upset because the coffee pot was moved to another location. Whatever the reason, people get angry with their fellow Christians and they begin to miss out on the mission God has for them. That’s exactly what the enemy wants.

But when we forgive offenses that our brothers and sisters in the Lord commit, we offer him no ammunition to use against us. When we put away our anger and instead choose love, we don’t allow him a way in. When we value people and relationships more than things, we take away something from the enemy’s arsenal. We leave him weak.

When we choose to love, it honors God and brings Him glory. That should be our ultimate incentive for treating others well and acting in unity as a church of believers.

One hope

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The Apostle Paul makes it a point to speak an awful lot about unity within the Church throughout his letter to the Ephesians. His efforts should not be overlooked. It’s obvious that unity is very important.

Many Christians think that they can live out the life of a Christ-follower apart from belonging to a church family, but in reality things were never designed to work that way. There is one body – and a body can’t fully function without all of its members. It was designed that way. There is one Spirit. We’re each indwelled by the Holy Spirit, but it’s not just for the purpose of solo living.

John Calvin once stated boldly that “those who separate themselves from their fellow believers estrange themselves from the kingdom of God.” He also said, “if we are not one body and one spirit, we are not fit for that inheritance.” This is strong wording, but it truly captures the nature of Paul’s letter and why he’s so adamant about talking to these people about unity. There is not Christianity, no Church, apart from that unity. Embrace your fellow Christians, flaws and all, because they’re your spiritual siblings and you need them as much as they need you.

In the bond of peace

Ephesians 4:3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

A reading of the New Testament will lead anyone to conclude that God is very concerned with unity among His people. Unity was even one of the main things that Jesus prayed for in the Garden of Gethsemane as He prayed for you and me. That being the case, we should also be concerned with unity within the church.

This unity doesn’t mean that we all agree on all things. Christians are going to end up with different interpretations of Scripture, with different doctrines and practices, and different conclusions about the non-essential elements of the faith. But if we maintain the unity of the Spirit, we maintain a bond as brothers and sisters.

What does it take to achieve this unity? First and foremost, it requires us to extend the same grace to others that we have received from the Father. That’s difficult on human terms, but only with humility, gentleness,  patience and forgiveness can true peace be present. We can disagree on things, but we must do it as a family, not as enemies.

Guided by Love to Unity

What sort of Christian, what sort of Disciple do we want to be? How do we want our faith and our hope in Christ to be expressed? How do we want it seen by the world around us, reflected from the deeper places in our hearts and our souls?

Those should be, when we stop to think about it, relatively easy questions to answer, shouldn’t they? After all, the Word of God, simple and beautiful by its very nature, is uncomplicated when it offers us the understanding we need to dwell in the knowledge of what it means to be one of Christ’s Disciples, to follow in the footsteps and the path of our blessed Savior. (1 Corinthians 1:11) Of all the commands that came before, the instructions and the laws that wove around the most ancient of covenants, His was unadorned by ritual and ceremony, by pomp and procedure. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God, (Matthew 28:16-20) showing them the path of faith and hope through a love that edifies, strengthens and nourishes those around us in the miracle that is His blessings. (John 13:34-35)

This is why He Himself, a poor carpenter from Galilee, born in the most meager of estates in Bethlehem, was viewed as so much of a threat. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from or where you had been, you were welcomed to Him. Yes, what God wanted, what God expected was important, but, in a wisdom that so often seems to elude the comprehension of men, He knew there was no rules that meant more to God than that we love Him, and that we love our one another with the full strength and full conviction of our hearts and our souls, our spirits and our minds. (Matthew 22:37-41) This was the blessing we could be by which all abundant life shined as a beacon to the world around us.

So often though we get tend to get bogged down by doctrine and the fights that it brings, we get so hung up on one or two passages in Scripture that we tend to let that define our faith more than anything else. We let ourselves become known for the things we are against as we let it serve as a wall surrounding us that keeps others out, rather than letting our faith and love serve as a door to let them in.

Now, to be clear, a proper understanding of Scripture should never be debased, nor should it be shied away from. The Word of God is meant to be studied, to be learned from, as it offers a path through its instruction to a righteous life. (2 Timothy 3:16) Yet nowhere in the Bible does it say “He who believes and is baptized, believing in all the right doctrine shall be saved.” Why? Because God transcends us in His wisdom and His hope for us even as He knows we aren’t going to completely understand or grasp it, telling us to dwell in unity with one another and turn from those who would tear us apart, who would destroy the fabric of harmony and peace between us. (Romans 16:17-18)

After all, in the end, it’s only God Himself who judges the hearts, the words and the deeds, the lifestyles and the choices of those souls that enter His Kingdom, not us. The path, if we believe the words of our blessed Savior, the Good Shepherd who guides and protects us, it is not a path that is paved through strictest adherence that abides in law, it is the path that has been paved by Him (John 14:6) in His tender mercy, His loving care, and His healing touch.

You can do more as a Disciple in the humble works of faith with a kindness to others, seeking to be a blessing in the world around you than you could ever do by hiding, locked away in a fortress of law and doctrine, shunning the world harshly for the offenses that it causes you. In that you have the capacity, through the power of the Spirit, to do more with the gift of grace that God has given you if you let yourself. It’s just a question of if you’ll let yourself, knowing that God will use you for more if your heart is truly open to love, hope and charity, and the wonders they can bring.

So again, what sort of Disciple do you want to be? What sort of blessings do you want to bring through your faith? It can be a blessing blossoming with the radiance of the truest beauty that springs forth from your soul, it’s just a matter of setting aside your pride and letting the Spirit nurture it to that point. After all, it is this love, this hope, in the principles of Christ’s blessed example that makes Scripture relevant, passing from age to age even to the present one.

Judging

There are few greater controversies for the disciple than the question of judging others and the proper nature of it. After all, to read the words of Scripture, to read the words of our blessed Savior himself, we come to understand that there is an inherent evil that can come with the application of our judgment as we assess the nature of sin and apply to it our own understanding.

Does this mean though that we do not judge? What do passages such as “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her…” (John 8:7), “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3) or the ever popular “Do not judge or you too will be judge…” (John 7:1) truly inform us of in our walk with Christ? What do they teach us of the true nature of discipleship and the way we observe others?

As with all things the truest measure of our judgment and the nature of our faith must be tempered with love. It must be met with a generous spirit given to hope and the edification of others, bearing the fruits of faith to nourish and strength the lives of others. The controversy itself was never meant to steer us away from assessing and evaluating the actions of others. It was meant to ensure that we look to ourselves, that we understand ourselves so that, in all that we do, we act in steadfast devotion to our brothers and sisters, not out of condemnation but out of affection for them.

You see, of the two greatest commandments given by Christ himself, the second is to love our neighbor, to love our fellow man, as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-40) What this means is that we must not be like the Pharisee, the hypocrite who deems himself righteous without a careful examination of himself, while condemning those around us for wickedness. (Luke 18:9-14) Our lives, they have to be given to a close and studious scrutiny as we daily inspect our own walks with our Savior as we are given to the Spirit of the Lord. With this this though also comes the understanding that we must hold others to the same level of accountability as we hold ourselves.

What we must remember is that, if given in the right spirit, if shown with the right heart, there is nothing more loving than to look at others, and to help them get back on the right path. If done with in faith, and charity, guided by a hope for them, it is done in a manner that does not seek to judge but that wants nothing more than to ensure that they are right with God even as we try to ensure that we are right with Him ourselves.

In hope and love for others this never comes in the form of an attack, nor should it be intended as a condemnation. The thought of stoning others, of casting them away, despising them for whatever offense they may have caused should never cross our mind. There is, after all, no means of spiritual death that we can heap upon the lives of others quite like the hurt and the sorrow we can bring with harsh words on our lips, haughtiness in our hearts and hatred in our eyes.

As a faithful and devoted disciple of Christ, given in a life of service, we cannot falter in our love for others, in our hopes for them, just as we hope for ourselves. Look to your life as a means not to judge others but to equip them for the righteous path, to nourish them for the long road through this world. This, at times, means helping them understand errors so that they can learn from them. Yet any help offered must be given in a clean heart and a right spirit that you may serve them for their greatest growth in a testimony to God’s love for them.

When this is done, when this is our nature, there is no controversy, there is no challenge, there is only the strength we can find in unity with others, rather than the pain that comes in the division of scorn.