Often I have the privilege of visiting with various pastors and priests. One of the common challenges that these leaders face is developing unity among their members. This problem is not a new one. At the core of unity is love. Without the kind of love as defined in I Corinthians 13 there is no hope for unity.
Jesus was asked about unity and relationships by a group of Sadducees and Pharisees. “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: Love others as well as you love yourself. These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Matthew 22:36-40 The Message
Knowing that His hour had come and that He would soon depart out of this world to the Father, Jesus presented a passionate message on this theme to His disciples. Beginning in John 13 and running through John 17, Jesus petitions believers then and now on the matter of love and unity. We can find four distinct divisions in the conclusion of His presentation in John 17: preservation (John 17:11), sanctification (v. 17), unity (vv. 11, 21-22), and participation in Jesus’ glory (v. 24).
It’s interesting to note that as Christ’s presents His concerns, warnings, prophecies, and proclamations He continually reminds the disciples about two key ingredients: love and unity.
Through the paraphrased word found in Eugene Peterson’s The Message let’s meditate upon some of Christ’s teachings.
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.” John 13:34
“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.” John 14:15
“Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood!” John 14:23
“This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.” John 15:12
“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.” John 15:16
Jesus requested unity for future believers (John 11, 22). The divided church through its many denominations is in some ways a scandal. The cure, however, is not institutional union. Jesus was not praying for the unity of a single, worldwide, ecumenical church in which doctrinal heresy would be maintained along with orthodoxy. Instead, He was praying for a unity of love, a unity of obedience to God and His Word, and a united commitment to His will. There are great differences between uniformity, union, and unity.
The goal of having unity among believers and with God is twofold: (a) that the world will believe in the Son’s divine mission (to know God and make Him known), and (b) that the world will sense that God’s love for believers is deep, intimate, and lasting as is His love for His Son.
Let’s strive to show a Christ-like love and unity to the world.
How can you demonstrate unity to those believers with whom you have disagreements?
Let’s read again I Corinthians 13 so that we can better appreciate the true meaning of love. Pick out and underline the key words like: patience, kind, long-lasting, and rejoices in truth.