As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Unity is an essential part of every healthy church. Without unity a church cannot move forward in any meaningful or fruitful way. Unity is something everyone desires, but we do not always follow the path to genuine unity. Instead, we settle for something less that what God wants for us. There are two common paths that churches follow that give the impression of unity on the surface, but fall short of the reality of unity.
The first is uniformity. Uniformity focuses on the externals. It is a form of unity without the substance. Uniformity requires everyone to conform to a specific pattern. This often comes out in the form of the way we dress, the way we speak, the way we act in public. A prime example of this is found in the Amish community. But many churches fall into this trap. Uniformity leads to a checklist faith that is more about following external rules than following Christ. The Pharisees were trapped in uniformity. Uniformity can hide the real condition of a person’s heart and lead to arrogance and self-righteousness. Uniformity makes no allowance for a difference of opinion or approach to life. There is no compromise in uniformity.
The second is unity at all costs. This is where unity itself becomes the goal. It is not unity in Christ, it is unity in unity. Therefore, we have to lower our standards and find the lowest common denominator. Unity at all costs values the façade of unity over the real substance of unity. Unity at all costs always leads to compromise, usually in the area of faith, theology, and moral values. Unity at all costs takes a live and let live attitude. This is the kind of unity we see promoted in our world today. Let’s all just coexist and not make waves. Unity at all costs refuses to deal with difficult issues and is unwilling to confront others when they are engaging in inappropriate things.
Paul gives us a snapshot of what genuine unity looks like. First and foremost, our unity is in Christ. We are the body of Christ and each of us has a place. Our unity must be centered on the truth of the Gospel. Genuine unity not only allows for diversity, but celebrates it in the right way. Each of us has been uniquely created and gifted by God. God wants to take all of our uniqueness and put us together as one body. Paul illustrated that in 1 Corinthians 12. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12
Genuine unity is practical not theoretical. Paul tells us to live a life worthy of our calling in Christ. Then he goes on to explain what he means. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Our lives should reflect the life of Christ within us. That means that we seek the best for one another, while at the same time we hold one another accountable for the way we live out our faith.
Paul stresses that unity in the Spirit is an essential part of our life together as the body of Christ. The Human body is unified when each part is doing its job. The human body is diseased when the parts of the body start to fight one another. It is the same with the body of Christ. Our goal is to be unified in our faith and together to become mature followers of Jesus Christ. God uses our different gifts to bind us together under the headship of Christ. That is what genuine unity is all about.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-16