Protecting the Unity of the Church
Jesus prayed for his present and future disciples on the day before his crucifixion “that they may all be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:21
The unity of the Body of Christ is a precious thing, something Jesus prayed for, and we are called to protect it. But how do we do that? Let me suggest a few things that you and I can do to protect and even enhance our unity as a body, and keep the body of Christ strong.
First, we need to be particularly aware of the power of our words, and use our words to build one another up, instead of tearing each other down. Encouragement is an essential vitamin in the health of the body of Christ, and each of us is responsible for making sure that we all get our recommended daily allowance. It says in the New Testament book of Hebrews, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
I believe in the 10 to 1 rule in the body of Christ. For every critical thing we need to lovingly say to one another, we need to say 10 affirming things. That’s a good rule for home, work and church. Who can you encourage this week? Who can you thank? Who can you praise? Who can you write a note to that says, “I think you’re the best.”
Second, practice the art of forgiveness. We must exercise radical grace with one another in the body of Christ. The goal of community is not a lack of conflict. We can’t live in community and not have conflict. Where two or more are gathered, toes will be stepped on, that’s a reality of life together. The question is not whether there will be conflict in the body. The question is how we will live with one another in the midst of conflict.
If you’ve offended someone, confess your sin and ask for their forgiveness. If you’ve been offended by someone and are holding a grudge, go and make it right today. Make the first move. Die to your pride. Put away your fear. Go with the grace and love of God in your heart and on your lips and seek to make that relationship right.
Finally, to protect the unity we share in Christ we need to regularly get into the Word of God, so that the truth of God’s Word might get into us. In our own personal devotional life and in small group community, we need to allow the truth of God’s Word to transform our minds and conform our wills to his.
During the Last Supper, when Jesus prayed for the unity of his followers, he asked the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.” You see, Satan would love nothing more than to undermine our unity and render us powerless to accomplish God’s mission. Satan would love to have us argue over things that don’t really matter, engage in power struggles and turf wars, squabble over issues of style and not substance. Satan would delight in having us so focused on our own issues that we lose sight of the world around us that continues to die without knowing Jesus Christ
as Lord and Savior.
And so, brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to arm ourselves against the enemy, and render him powerless against the unified Body of Christ.
Bringing It Home:
1. What threats to the unity of the Body of Christ can you identify in your own local church? What can you do to protect the unity?
2. If you have a broken relationship with someone in your local church (be honest with yourself and God!!) seek to make it right today. Make the first move.
Heavenly Father, forgive me for my part in undermining the unity of your Church by my thoughts, words, and deeds. Help me to do all that I can to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Teach me to use my words to build others up and encourage them, and stay grounded in your Word so that enemy might not find a foothold in my soul. This I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, MN