In life there has always been an us and them division. Over the years, this division has continued. Even in the most diverse gatherings, we see smaller groups and cliques that promote a lack of unity. In Philemon 1, we read in verse 6 of a “participation in the faith,” a faith that “we hold in common.” In this letter, Paul is telling Philemon he should be gracious to Onesimus because of God’s goodness towards him. He reminds him of the mutual partnership that we all have as part of the faith. Remember, we are all part of one body as believers – all connected – all part of the body of Christ. There is great diversity within the body of Christ, and yet, this diversity should never cause a lack of unity. We are all on the same team. It is through God’s creativity, through each of our separate skills, personalities, etc., that God is most glorified.
Only through love and forgiveness can there be an acceptance of our brothers and sisters. For our faith to be fruitful, it must be shared. The sharing of our faith is not simply sharing of the Gospel with Bible verses but living out the goodness of God—allowing the overflowing of God’s goodness through every good thing within us in Christ. The things we do point to Jesus. Our words, our deeds, our “participation in the faith” can only be effective if Jesus is recognized. This requires us to humble ourselves and each together let all that we say and do point to Him. It is never about us or them—it is always about Jesus.
Today as we see all the division around us, can we truly claim that we are sharing of our faith, or resources, our love? Can we see that we are together in partnership, together in unity? If someone looks at you, will the person recognize Christ? Are we effective or are we indifferent? Is God glorified or are our efforts self-boasting? Paul prays that Philemon may become effective through knowing the good things. Take some time today and ask the Spirit to remind you of the good things He has placed within you. May this reminder help motivate you to good works in Christ Jesus. May Christ be recognized in all you do and say.
“I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ.” – Philemon 1:6 [CSB]
“And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it.” – Philemon 1:6 [MSG]
As Christians, we understand that we are each part of the body of Christ. We understand that the Church is comprised of many parts that each has a special function. The Church is people. Each of us are different. Each of us are part of the body of Christ. We also know that Jesus Christ spoke of unity and prayed for unity. This is important.
Paul wrote that “we all belong to each other,” as translated in the New Living Translation. I love this translation. We all belong to each other. I think this helps us to get a better picture of unity. If we belong to each other, it should mean that we care for those who belong to us. Don’t you care for your belongings? If we belong to each other, it should mean that we treasure those who belong to us. Don’t you treasure your belongings? Don’t you treat what you own nicely because it is of value to you? If we belong to each other, that means that not only does a person belong to you, but you belong to the person. This speaks of humility, connectivity, loyalty, and so much more.
One of the biggest areas we struggle with is unity. Jesus spoke a lot about unity because He knew of the struggles we would have with harmony as a body. When you take a group of imperfect people and join them together, there will be problems. But what links us together is the Holy Spirit. If we allow the Spirit to move freely and guide our steps, we can live as if we belong to each other. We can seek out the best interests for our brothers and sisters. We can think more of our fellow believers. We can treasure those God puts in our lives and ask Him how we can bless, encourage, and strengthen them on their walk. We can live within the unity instead of trying to break out on top. Remember today, we all belong to each other.
“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” – Romans 12:4-5 [NLT]
In the world, we have favoritism. There are people we enjoy more. There are things we like more. We usually have favorites. But the Bible says that favoritism is a sin (James 2:9). We are not supposed to have favorites.
There are people who believe that God has favorites; however, He does not show favoritism. When we struggle, and see others doing so well, we think God loves those with less struggles more than He loves us. The truth is we are all on a journey that is unique. As we are going through struggles, it does not mean that God loves others more. God loves you. His love for you has nothing to do with you. His love is based on Who He is.
Favoritism is divisive. Showing favor to someone above another will cause stumbling blocks. God desires unity. Today, look at how you can promote unity. Take a closer look at your relationships and ask the Spirit if you are showing favoritism. Aim to look at people through God’s eyes today. Each person is special. Each person is important. Each person matters.
“For God does not show favoritism.” – Romans 2:11 [NLT]
A few weeks ago, I bought my daughter some Cross Country spikes as recommended by her coach. As she’s now on the varsity team, I wanted to be sure she was equipped with the equipment that would help her get to the next level. Like her mom, she likes to keep her shoes loose. During her latest run, another runner stepped on the back of her shoe. As a result, her spike flew off. My daughter ended up with only one shoe. I couldn’t imagine running with only one shoe. Even more so, I couldn’t imagine running a few miles without a shoe. Despite the pain, my daughter continued to press forward. She didn’t let another runner disrupt her race. She actually ran faster and more focused. She finished with a personal record. Yes, her foot was a bit sore, but she finished the race and she finished it well.
We are each running a race. The Apostle Paul talks about this race. Remember, we are to run so that we win the race (1 Corinthians 9:24). There are people out there who will step on our shoes. We often think it’s the people who don’t believe that step on our shoes. We make non-believers out to be the enemy. Stop doing that! They are lost people, just like you and I were once lost.
Oftentimes, the reason our race is slowed down is because of the other runners—our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible speaks again and again about unity, about harmony with the body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Head and we all are the body. Yet, we have a terrible time at getting along. We argue over doctrine. We tear each other down, instead of building each other up. We promote our own agenda, even if it means sacrificing what God is doing through the ministry of others. We are divisive. We are judgmental. We live by our opinions and emotions rather than God’s truth. Our human nature leads us off course. We get in the way of what God is doing through others because we want to be control happy.
Today, look at your feet. Are you running the race? Are you running to win? Are you encouraging the other runners, or are you stepping on their shoes? Are you running alongside your brothers and sisters in love, or are you slowing them down as a stumbling block? Live in harmony. “Be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10 [NLT]
When I speak with people about church, they always ask the denomination. Then I say, “Oh it’s non-denominational.” It’s an interesting phrase. There’s different denominations (for example Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist). Then there’s non-denominational. Those are the churches that claim to not be affiliated with any of the known denominations. After the Early Church that you read about in Acts, things started to break apart. As time continued, groups were formed from other groups. Some churches have so many different divisions in their names, it becomes a tongue twister.
The denominations all came about from a difference of beliefs. This still happens today, hence the reason we have tons of church plants and longer than life names. The reason for the differences of beliefs, and at times, disunity of the church, is because we are a broken people. The church is filled with sinners, many sinners who are saved by grace alone. But we aren’t perfect. Some of us are proud, lazy, quick to speak, discontent, disorganized, agenda focused, bossy, or fable telling folks. We aren’t perfect, so it’s hard for us to all live together in harmony.
Nonetheless, the Bible speaks a lot about unity or harmony. Yes, that’s the vision God has for His Church. The capital “C” Church is the universal church. Broken down, this is all of the denominations and non-denominations. Together, as the big C, we need to be united. Remember, the Church is the body of Christ. The Church is people, not buildings. As the big C, we must remember Who we worship, Who we follow, Who is the Head of the Body. Even so, all of the little C’s need to also be united as separate bodies.
This seems like an impossible task. People can rarely get along. There are bound to be disagreements. Yes. Very true. But with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Remember the reason for the Church. Keep running the race. The Spirit will unite us if we allow ourselves to be led (Ephesians 4:3). Don’t be proud. Don’t think you know it all. Humble yourself and seek the best for others (1 Corinthians 10:24). Love. It’s the bond of perfect unity (see Colossians 3:14). Live in harmony.
“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” – Romans 12:16 [NLT]
25) Don’t lie
26) Don’t act in anger – James 1:20 – Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. [NLT] Anger motivated by pride. Anger that lingers.
27) Give no opportunity to devil
28) If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. [NLT]
29) Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. [MSG]
30) Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for Himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. [MSG]
- Bitterness, harshness, embittered resentful spirit
- Wrath, passion, rage, bad temper
- Anger, resentment, animosity
- Quarreling, brawling, clamor, contention, shout
- Slander, evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language
- Malice, spite, ill will, evil behavior, wickedness, vicious disposition
Proverbs 29:11 – A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back. [NASB]
Proverbs 29:22 – An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins. [NIV]
Proverbs 30:33 – For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife. [NASB]
1 Timothy 2:8 – Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument. [HCSB]
Holy Spirit – common to each believer – Spirit of God ties each of us together
Acting in a negative matter breaks the binding of the Body. It is the opposite of unity. Anger can divide a church (2 Corinthians 12:20)
Never let anything bring division to His Body. Speak life. Look out for the best interests of others…
Bible Study Questions:
Ephesians 4 focuses on the unity of the body of Christ, the Church, and living as children of Light. What are some of the items Paul tells us to refrain from to promote unity and righteous living?
Ephesians 4:27 says not to give the devil an “opportunity” or “foothold” or “place.” What does this mean? Why is this so important?
The passage says, “Be angry” but in some verses we read that a fool loses his temper, commits many sins, and stirs up conflict. Where do we draw the line? How can anger be okay?
What Fruit of the Spirt do you think is important to live out these words Paul has written in this passage? (read Galatians 5:22-26)
Why does Paul spend so much time talking about unity?
What have you seen be most divisive in the Body?
What can you do to promote unity?