Wrecking the unity of a church is easy. Strengthening and maintaining it is quite the opposite. Yet, Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” This good and pleasant state is attainable when we follow Colossians 3:12-14, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.“
Though much more could be written on the topic of church unity than I am including in this post, I hope the few practical applications of Colossians 3 that I have gleaned so far after spending thirteen years in the same church will be beneficial.
1. Communicate Wisely
- Instead of assuming, clarify. (Philippians 4:8)
- Instead of continuing to fashionably text when we notice frustration or confusion mounting, be old-fashioned and call to diffuse the situation. (Proverbs 17:14)
- Instead of sending lengthy emails full of suggestions, feedback, thoughts, or counsel that can be easily misread or misunderstood, talk face to face (or at least by phone) where tone and heart are much better communicated, non-verbals can be read, words adjusted as needed, and clarifications given. (Proverbs 15:2, 15:28, 16:21, 25:11)
- Instead of discussing our frustrations and complaints with random people, respectfully and humbly share perspectives, ideas, or suggestions face to face with the appropriate person who is able to implement change. (Philippians 2:14-15, Acts 6:1-5)
- Instead of solely voicing to leadership ways the church can change or improve, be on the alert for the positive and speak praise as well. (note how Christ addresses churches in Revelation 2:1-29)
2. Think Correctly
- Instead of attributing the worst motives to someone, believe the best possible motives. (I Corinthians 13:7)
- Instead of putting church leadership on a pedestal, remember they are human too wrestling against sin just like us. (Acts 10:25-26, Romans 7:18-24, Hebrews 5:1-3, Galatians 2:11-13)
- Instead of feeling insecure with our imperfections and blind spots, confidently know that God is busy working to perfect all His children (Philippians 1:6, Philippians 3:12, Psalm 138:8).
- Instead of feeling insignificant and purposeless, trust that God has designed specific work for each of us to accomplish and that it is vital for each of us to do our part so that the church is functioning as it should. (I Corinthians 12:1-31, Romans 12:4-8, Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 4:16)
- Instead of desperately trying to guard our reputation, trust God knows our heart and will defend and exalt us in His time. (Psalm 139, I Peter 5:5-7, Job 19, I Samuel 16:7, Numbers 12:1-15)
- Instead of failing to understand the deep and wide-spread destruction, confusion, and pain we can inflict when we don’t fight to maintain the unity of the body of Christ, comprehend fully that our choice to pursue unity can mightily glorify God and actually bring us great harmony in relationships we deemed beyond repair. (II Corinthians 5:18-20, Ephesians 3:20-21)
3. Develop and Maintain Relationships
- Instead of expecting people to understand our life, first and foremost take every problem to our Best Friend (a prayer journal can be very helpful) who sees exactly what we are going through, cares about us, and is able to provide us the perfect refuge, counsel, and protection day after day after day. (John 15:15, Genesis 16:7-13, Matthew 6:25-30, I Peter 5:7, Psalm 46, Psalm 32:8, Psalm 34:17-18, Luke 12:4-7, Psalm 68:19)
- Instead of waiting for someone to initiate conversation with us, let’s get out of our comfort zone and be friendly. (Luke 6:31)
- Instead of avoiding particular people because we do not naturally click with them, be kind to everyone. (II Timothy 2:24)
- Instead of focusing on our hard circumstances, find someone else in need or struggling and serve them. (John 13:12-17)
- Instead of holding onto pain or sin inflicted on us, overlook the offense, or, depending on the situation, prayerfully, humbly, and gently confront in person and then forgive when asked. (Proverbs 19:11, Luke 17:3-4, Galatians 6:1)
- Instead of leaving relationships within the church broken after attempting to reconcile, ask a wise third party to meet with us and the other person to work things out (Philippians 4:2-3, Ephesians 4:3, Hebrews 12:14).
- Instead of acquiescing when our spouse or good friends end relationships within the church over disagreements or hurt feelings, encourage and support them to reconcile knowing our loyalty to Christ is paramount. (Luke 14:26, II Corinthians 5:18, Proverbs 27:5-6)
- Instead of relentlessly trying to force a Christian to repent and reconcile, understand that at a certain point the church must sadly let a person go down the path of destruction they have chosen. (Luke 15:11-32, Matthew 18:15-17, I Timothy 1:20, Romans 12:18)
- Instead of avoiding people whom we have had a conflict with and reconciled, affirm the relationship and make new, good memories together. (II Corinthians 2:7-8)
4. Choose Humility
- Instead of believing our way is the only way to understand the Bible, be teachable. (Acts 18:24-28)
- Instead of insisting everyone agree with our perspective, be willing to agree to disagree on secondary matters. (Colossians 2:16, Titus 3:9, Proverbs 6:16-19)
- Instead of holding onto certain traditions passed down, be willing to reform in line with Scripture. (Mark 7:9-13)
- Instead of being defensive when someone confronts us or makes suggestions, humbly seek to hear any truth that is being said even if the tone and attitude seem harsh and then respond graciously. (Proverbs 15:10, 15:32, 8:33, 12:16, Psalm 145:8)
- Instead of justifying our actions because our intentions were good, strive to understand how we need to change because our impact was not good. (Proverbs 14:8, Genesis 20:3-18)
- Instead of being impatient when wronged, misunderstood, or emotionally hurt, remember our own past offenses and imitate the patience God and others have shown us over the years. (II Peter 3:9, Romans 2:4, Lamentations 3:22-23, Hebrews 5:2, II Timothy 2:24)
The bottom line is we must die to self over and over in order to stay unified. (Luke 9:23) That is why it’s so hard! But our Savior has already sacrificially died for the church (and risen!) and has promised to give us the grace we need. (II Corinthians 12:9) Typically, we’ll never hear the stories about Christians successfully preserving the unity by dying to self because these actions often take place in private and do not lead to disunity or a church-split. Let us each do our part so we can all enjoy the good and pleasant state of unity in each of our churches across the globe as we eagerly anticipate the day when we will all gather together at the throne of God to perfectly live in unity for all eternity joyfully serving the Lamb. (Revelation 22:3)
What areas are you doing well in? What areas need improvement in your life? What practical recommendation(s) would you add?
Tons of truth in this post.
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There are so many really good points in this post. I like the Bible verses to back up the points with Phil. 4 being my favorite. I am amazed how fast people can text and how much better I am these days. But we can text ourselves into problems so there really is a time that one must stop texting / emailing and start to listen / talk instead. Make it sooner than later. Stay humble.
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Thank you so much for sharing! I found the process of searching and adding Scripture very edifying. Glad it was a blessing to you as well. And may we all be slower to email and text! Thanks again for your comment!