Recently I disappointed a friend. We have all been there for a hundred different reasons. She was hurting and needed time, the one thing I didn’t have to give. I could later in the day or the next, but couldn’t come to her aid right then. Her need was real, but I couldn’t meet it in the way she had hoped. From her response I knew that it frustrated and disappointed her.
My heart ached, because I had hoped to grow closer with this new friend. Though I knew that our friendship could not progress under such expectation. So when this happened I instinctively shrunk inwardly from this relationship. I responded apologetically and made an internal decision to distance myself.
The same week I was reading through Ephesians 4, and brushed passed the call to unity as something that I was good on. Besides, I try hard to control my words and thoughts against critical attitudes towards the church. I am very familiar with the feeling of conviction when my heart and mind crosses the line and trespasses against Christ’s beloved in this way. It is a sickening feeling that I prefer to avoid. So at first glance I thought, “‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’..yes, okay what’s next Paul.”
However, the Holy Spirit shook me from my nonchalance.
Am I eager and passionate about pursuing unity? If I was eager for unity would I have so casually made the decision to distance myself from this sister? Or would I have instead been burdened with a desire to speak the truth in love. I realized that many times I have contributed to disunity not because of what I did, but because of what I didn’t do. Fear and selfishness have held me back from speaking the truth in love.
There are three deviations from speaking the truth in love: avoidance, hinting through passive aggression, and lashing out in aggressive confrontation. All of these have our selves as the center.
The enemy delights in hijacking relational complications for his purpose of disunity. As Christians, unity is our shocking, other- worldly light that shines very brightly in a world that gets daily doses of hatred, criticism, fraud, and phony interactions. It’s evidence of a love that is not from this earth, that is not human, and that conquerors all.
If we are to be eager for unity we have to be willing to do the relational and personal work. I have often heard it said, “I’m not good at confrontation.” I would say that when emotions and friendship are involved many shrink from the highest call of love and unity. I know I have and can.
Laboring for unity looks like taking it to our Father first, processing our hurt feelings or another’s offense towards us with Him. God may reveal that it is our heart alone that needed altering in the matter. Growing in unity will sometimes be about us privately growing and learning before God, so that we are free to forgive and extend grace as we walk in unity with others.
When we seek God in the matter he will at times, compel us to vulnerably approach an issue for the sake of unity. Relationships may require this vulnerability to be able to move forward in authenticity and intimacy. Speaking the truth in love puts aside cowardice, insecurity, and selfish gain for the sake of real love between family members. A family that is meant to reflect the same unity the Father has with the Son and Spirit.
We chase unity because we believe we have been unified through Christ. In Ephesians 2 we see that the walls of hostility have been broken down through the power of the gospel. The church is unified, therefore we can confidently pursue unity knowing that the very power of Christ meets to help us and has already accomplished what we pursue.