Unity

Preaching and Worship Resources about Unity

Unity is the ability to say, "If you belong to Jesus Christ, you belong with me." This unity is necessarily Christo-centric: we relate to one another in and through Jesus Christ.

In Scripture

Songs of Praise "O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!" (Ps. 95: 1, 2).

A species of empathy, compassion is emotional distress over the perceived plight of others, classically accompanied by a desire to alleviate it. In biblical terms, compassion is "weeping with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15).

"How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!" (Ps. 133:1).

So That the World Might Believe "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:20, 21).

Held in Common "Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common" (Acts 4:32).

No Partiality "Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34-35).

No Distinction Between Them and Us "God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us" (Acts 15:8, 9).

"For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another" (Rom. 12:4-5).

One Body "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:12, 13).

One in Christ Jesus "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:27, 28).

"For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us" (Eph. 2:14).

Bond of Peace "[Make] every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism,[ ]one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all" (Eph. 4:3-6).

"Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:11, 12).

Points to Ponder

God's CV Exodus 34:6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness . . . They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them . . .

The Belhar Confession is a document written in 1986 by the Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa. This confession recognizes that the church in South Africa, while agreeing to orthodox formulations of doctrine, also compromised their witness in a devastating way by igniting and fueling apartheid. Coming from deep conviction out of lived experience, this document provides profound insight into the nature of unity in the church, defining unity as "both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God's Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought: one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain."

Unity as Gift Toward this theme, a preacher will focus primarily on the work of the Holy Spirit in guaranteeing the unity of the church. Stories from the book of Acts that focus on the Holy Spirit showing up in the "wrong kind" of people challenge the church to remember that people do not control who's in and who's out in the church. You may also tie a strong connection to the first part of worship — that God gathers us for worship. We do not gather ourselves, therefore we do not gather according to our own criteria.

Unity as Obligation Unity requires something of us: humility, patience, and a willingness to "bear with one another in love." "Our World Belongs to God," the contemporary testimony of the Christian Reformed Church, says this: "The church is a gathering of forgiven sinners called to be holy. Saved by the patient grace of God, we deal patiently with others and together confess our need for grace and forgiveness. Restored in Christ's presence, shaped by his life, this new community lives out the ongoing story of God's reconciling love, announces the new creation, and works for a world of justice and peace." Unity is more than kindness and respect due to all people as image-bearers of God. Unity is a unique quality of relationship required of and bequeathed to all people who claim Jesus Christ as Lord.

Unity Does Not Abolish Indifference Referring to the story of Pentecost in Acts 2, we do well to remember that the people did not all begin speaking the same language. Rather, they were able to hear and understand one another across the barrier or language. In order for the pursuit of unity not to become a violence against others, it cannot be an effort to make others more like us. In this regard, New Testament epistle texts about the variety of gifts is essential reading. There are many differences — and even this is what God intends — but there is unity in the midst of difference. To confess Jesus as Lord is our only required commonality and, by the Spirit's power, it is enough to conquer prejudice without abolishing difference.

Unity Is Fundamentally Christo-centric Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classic text Life Together says this: "Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. . . . I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ. The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, for eternity."


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.