Monday, March 10, 2014

What is Unity and How Do We Achieve It?

In order to strive for unity within the body of Christ, we must know how to define it. After all, how can we reach a goal if we do not even know what that goal is?

In a previous post I offered this definition for unity: unity is a togetherness of mind and spirit that looks to the good of the group without demanding sameness within the group. You may have a different and possibly better definition, but I imagine there would be many similarities to mine.

How do we achieve this unity within the church family? Paul answers this question in the well-known passage of Philippians 2:5-11. The difficulty is not knowing how to bring about unity; the struggle is actually living it out. The reason for this is that unity comes through humility. Paul writes the following in 2:5-11:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In this much loved Christ Hymn, Paul tells us that unity stems from humble living. The apostle then shows us the greatest example in history by discussing the work of Christ on the cross. Jesus died not only as a sacrifice for our sins, but also as an example of the servanthood we are to show others.

Paul's desire is that the Philippian believers display "the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." How does this occur? Through humbly thinking of other Christ-followers before self.

As we ponder what brings unity, we see that intellectual agreement on a certain set of doctrines is not what is important. Rather, what is critical is attitude and action. When we follow the path of Christ, considering others better than ourselves and treating them as such, we will indeed have sweet unity in the body.


Aussie John said...


Unity exists BECAUSE a person is in Christ. Being in Christ CREATES that unity.

The recipe to MAINTAIN what already exists,unity,as Paul counsels in the first three verses of Ephesians 4,"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace".

That unity is because that the believers are,"..... 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. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift".

The disunity we see in what calls itself "church" is a proud and arrogant spirit (attitude) which says that "to be a genuine follower of Christ you have to be like me".

People who are recipients of GRACE function GRACIOUSLY (as the first three verses indicate).

Great question marks arise over those whose actions indicate otherwise!

Jeremy Myers said...

I like it.

And yet isn't some basic agreement on some doctrines required? I have often struggled with this ... Can I be in unity with someone who does not believe in the divinity of Jesus or the Trinity for example?

Eric said...


I do believe that agreement on core Christian doctrines is essential for unity to exist. In this series I'm talking about unity in Christ. Christians cannot by definition have unity in Christ with non-Christians. The two can be great friends, of course, but they cannot experience Christian unity. If someone does not believe core Christian doctrines, then they are not a follower of Christ. This makes unity in Christ impossible.

It gets trickier of course when two Christians disagree strongly over what we might call "secondary doctrines." However, I believe these differences can be overcome through humility and charity. There is much to be said for talking, listening, listening some more, and then agreeing to disagree if need be.