One minister presented a children’s sermon to all the young children. A precocious 3-year-old girl listened as he explained that God wanted them all to get along and love each other. “God wants us all to be one,” said the preacher. To which the little girl replied, “But I don’t want to be one. I want to be 4!” It does seem true that today, the church resists being one.

The Bible says, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” The reason it is so good and pleasant is that it is so rare. If we are to have any hope for any kind of unity, we need to pay heed to what Paul told the Ephesians about it. What are the key facets of Christian unity?

Christian Unity Is Made Possible by Our Attitude (v. 2)
Notice the emphasis on virtues such as humility, gentleness, patience and love. There is no possibility of unity apart from these qualities. Humility allows us to give another person a place of honor. Patience particularly is required where human relationships are concerned. One wise man described patience as, “The ability to put up with someone you’d rather put down.”

We would expect Paul to place a great emphasis on love. From what Paul says here and in his first letter to the Corinthians, we know of love’s priority. People are exasperating. The more exasperating a person is, the more they tend to need love. As the old curmudgeon said, “Loving the world to me is no chore. My trouble’s with the man next door.”

Christian Unity Is Illustrated by the Essentials of Our Doctrine (vv. 4-6)
It is difficult to miss Paul’s point when he makes a list of things that are one. In the church, He says we have one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father. Unity is part of the church’s DNA. Paul’s point is made so strongly that the reader is prone to think of disunity as totally inconsistent with the gospel. Human beings perhaps never can reach total unity in any community, but the effort is worth it if we can agree on essentials.

Christian Unity Is Able to Embrace Diversity (vv. 7-12)
Unity is not uniformity. The church embraces the fact that church members have different gifts, roles and functions given to bless the church. No army could be victorious without a diversity of gifts. No sports team could win without diversity of gifts. No business could survive without diversity of gifts. Each gift is given by Christ, and each gift enriches the church. Paul lists these gifted people as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Christian Unity Results in a Mature Church (vv. 13-16)
This maturity enables the church to be more healthy and stable. It gives up its childish ways. It is more able to withstand the waves and wind of the storms of life and dangerous ideas. It also gives us the right to speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth without love can be harsh and mean. Speaking love without truth can be dangerously simplistic.

For many years, the state of Kentucky did not have its own flag; it simply used the U.S. flag. In 1918, the state finally adopted its own flag. With a blue background, the flag depicts two people shaking hands. One man is in buckskin, the other in a suit. It is meant to depict the need for unity between the pioneer and the landed gentry. On the flag is the state motto of Kentucky, “United we stand. Divided we fall.” What is true of a state is surely true of the church.

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About The Author

A third generation preacher, Mike Shannon is Professor of Preaching at Cincinnati Bible Seminary of Cincinnati Christian University. He has served as a preaching minister, church planter, and college professor. His most recent preaching ministry was at the historic First Christian Church of Johnson City, Tennessee. In his nearly two decades at Cincinnati Christian University, Mike has served as both professor and Dean of the Seminary. He has also been an adjunct professor at Milligan College and Northern Kentucky University. Mike is the author or co-author of several books.

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