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7 Foundations for Church Unity

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133)

With understated simplicity, God reveals something of his nature in just 62 words. He loves unity and bestows his blessing wherever he finds it.

His very existence models unity before creation, unity before knowledge and unity forevermore. Tim Keller calls it the “dance of reality”: the Creator of the universe is somehow three and also One. Unity is simply another way of saying “God is love.”

We have trouble with this. We mistake uniformity for unity. We mistake intellectual agreement for unity. But there is no mistaking the oil of anointing in life lived together. There’s no mistaking the refreshment of a saturated mountain-morning when God’s kids learn how to play nicely together.

Here are seven starters, all from Paul’s letter to a healthy church in a place called Ephesus. I will not give chapter-and-verse references because to do so would be to reduce the call for unity to mere biblical argument.

  • We are—all of us—adopted into God’s family. This means we must learn a new way to live. We are called to take on a family identity that was previously alien to our way of thinking and acting. To carry our old ways into the new family of God is to refuse the new identity he gives us.
  • Our eyes of our hearts must be enlightened, not the thoughts of our intellects. More than knowledge, we need the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.
  • He wants to show us the “incomparable riches of his grace,” but we frequently mistake the moment of adoption as the beginning and end of his grace. Having breathed the air of grace the first time, we think we received all there is. There is more grace to discover; it starts within the family of God and migrates outward.
  • 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. If you’re keeping score, that’s seven “ones” and three “alls.” Did you notice that the phrase “one creed” does not appear?
  • We grieve the Holy Spirit not by what we teach or advocate but by how we treat one another.
  • If we revere Jesus, we will submit to one another.
  • “Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” The greatest intellect of Christendom opened and closed his love-letter with the words grace and peace.

How have you experienced the blessings of unity in God’s family? How have you contributed to it?  

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Ray Hollenbach, a Chicagoan, writes about faith and culture. He is the managing editor of Ministry Tech. He book "Deeper Hope" (and others) is available at Amazon.com He currently lives in central Kentucky, which is filled with faith and culture.