I cringed a little as I opened the cover.
Sure, I had already done this several times. And yes, I knew the task was good and necessary and beneficial.
But still…it didn’t get any easier.
With a sigh, I pulled open the clasped rings and started removing pages from another one of my Grandma’s photo albums.
Per my instructions, my daughter carefully labeled each page according to the decades-old label the album’s spine already bore.
Once that was complete, I set to work divvying up the pages into six piles, one for each of my Grandma’s children.
The worst was when I had to peel back the cellophane from a page, gingerly removing a picture from its longtime home.
Undoing work that had been so lovingly done by my grandparents just felt…wrong.
On so many levels.
It felt wrong to divide up what they had unified.
It felt wrong to scatter what they had joined.
Tears filled my eyes more than once as I worked on this task, because I couldn’t help but wonder…
What were my grandparents thinking when they assembled these albums?
Were they smiling? Maybe even chuckling at their 8-year-old youngest son in his Superman costume?
And perhaps most haunting of all – I bet when they were compiling these pictures into an album to be enjoyed for years to come, they never foresaw the day when their work would be undone.
As I worked, my mind wandered to another type of undoing.
The undoing of unity in Christ’s Church.
When you and I, through faith in Jesus Christ, became children of God, we were baptized into one body (Romans 12, I Corinthians 12).
This is really good news.
Because that means you and I don’t have to strive and struggle and strain to be united with our fellow believers.
God already did that work.
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. 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. (Ephesians 4:1-7)
Praise the Lord, He didn’t command us to achieve unity. He told us to maintain it.
And He didn’t tell us to act like one body. He said there is one body.
So what’s our responsibility?
Just like Grandma’s photo albums, the unifying work has already been done.
Our job is simply to not undo it.
And Ephesians 4 provides just the insight we need to avoid this undoing.
How to Build Christian Unity
Be humble with gentleness. (“…with all humility and gentleness..”.)
If we want to maintain unity with our fellow believers, there’s no room for pride. No room for unkindness or rudeness.
Be patient. (“…with patience, bearing with one another in love…”)
Being one with other Christ-followers requires that we have ongoing patience with each other, putting up with each other, and never forgetting that we’re all just people.
Be eager to maintain the work God has done. (“…eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit…”)
Isn’t it sweet to consider that God has already done this work of unity? How refreshing! I rejoice in His work, and I want to be a good steward of it.
Be bound by peace. (“…in the bond of peace…”)
Jesus Himself is the means by which we have peace with God and peace with each other. We must keep before us an understanding that our fellow believers are sons and daughters of God, co-heirs with Christ, and recipients of His lavish grace and love just as we are. Though we may differ in some areas, the far-and-away most important thing is our mutual membership in the family of God.
Be purposeful. (“There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…”)
Our unity with other believers is a picture to the world of Jesus’ oneness with His Father, and in fact testifies of Jesus’ deity (John 17:21). God’s design of His Church as one body isn’t random; it’s fraught with purpose and full of significance.
Be recipients of grace.
I don’t know about you, but all of this seems like a pretty tall order to me. Well, I have spectacular news for us.
Because as wonderful as Ephesians 4:1-6 are, verse seven is even better (if that’s possible):
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
God knew we could never unify ourselves.
So He did it.
And He knows we can never maintain that unity on our own.
So He does that, too.
Will you hold tight with me to that grace today?
We can start by praying together.
Heavenly Father, I stand in awe of Your completed work of salvation which allowed me entrance into Your family. Thank you for establishing one body through your Spirit, and for including me in that body. I long to be a good steward of the unity you’ve created, but without Your help, I have no hope of fulfilling Your plan for me to walk in unity. I ask that Your Spirit would show me any areas in which I’m causing disunity, so I can repent and receive forgiveness. Please give me a fresh perspective of the oneness You’ve established, and a fresh zeal for Your purpose in it. I claim the grace You’ve promised right now, and I ask that you would remind me to keep on claiming it for Your glory’s sake. Amen.