When reading John chapter seventeen, one can’t help but notice the fervent prayer of “unity” that Jesus prayed in the last hours of His death. In particular, these verses have always stood out to me:
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. ~ John 17:20-23, KJV
In reading that we gain an understanding of how important unity is for believers. And the reason it’s important is because we bring glory to God when we reflect a unified church. We are a living testimony to the life of Christ and that testimony is strengthened when the body of Christ is whole.
Matthew Henry writes, “Our Lord especially prayed, that all believers might be as one body under one head, animated by one soul, by their union with Christ and the Father in Him, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. The more they dispute about lesser things, the more they throw doubts upon Christianity. Let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, praying that all believers may be more and more united in one mind and one judgment. Thus shall we convince the world of the truth and excellence of our religion, and find more sweet communion with God and his saints.”
Let’s look at the flip-side for a moment and consider a scenario. Say I have a problem with a woman at church and I write about my frustrations openly on my blog. And let’s say that this woman talks about it at play group. By doing that, what we are showing the world is a fractured church where members are at war with one another rather than a body that is functioning well, and communicating in love and with order. God is not a God of confusion, and neither should we be.
This is how we are instructed to handle disagreements:
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. ~ Matthew 18:15, NIV
Further instruction is given in Matthew 18 for those who can’t resolve their problems alone. But I won’t get into that today because I’m simply making the point that unity should be achieved behind closed doors.
With that thought in mind consider how this message is a benefit to the family unit. When children see two parents raising them with one heart and mind they see order instead of confusion.
When parents are headed in two different directions, we develop a fracture in the family unit that can be detrimental to our children.
One example is when parents argue in front of the kids. Not only is this dis-heartening to children, it also models a lack of love and respect to our spouse. If we want our children to seek out good relationships when they are older then we must show them what that relationship looks like today. We can start by discussing disagreements behind closed doors. How do we do that? We make an effort to exercise self control.
Of course we should display loving communication in front of our children–that’s how they learn–but if we’re pointing out a fault in our spouse or if an argument is getting heated, we need to exercise self control and bite our tongue until we’re alone together.
A second example is dissing our spouse when he’s not around, or showing a lack of respect for him when he is absent. I want my sons to find wives that respect them, and therefore I need to show them what that picture looks like today. In the same way I want my daughter to respect her future husband. (and vice versa for both). I must teach them these lessons today, as they’re growing before me. That window of opportunity is only open so long.
You are loved by an almighty God,