Last week my wife and I were standing in “line” at the Memphis airport with 100 or more other people waiting to board our plane. It was the typical scene. People looked bored, silently staring forward. A couple behind us spoke to us and a lively conversation erupted. Then a couple several layers of people ahead of us turned around and spoke to the four of us, smiling and waving. Another family near them began talking to them. Within moments many of the waiting crowd were engaged in friendly conversations. The entire atmosphere had changed.
What brought these strangers together so quickly? It was the realization of a shared experience. We were all on our way to San Antonio for the same reason, to see our sons and daughters graduate from basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. We had been through a similar experience through the preceding eight weeks, writing many letters, missing our loved ones, feeling concern for their well being knowing in part some of the rigors they were enduring.
Shared experiences tend to bring people together, especially when those experiences are dramatic and/or unusual. The camaraderie among the trainees themselves was much more pronounced than among us parents.
What else brings people together? Family relationships can be a cause even when there are no shared experiences. Two brothers raised separately might still feel an affinity toward one another for no other reason than that they are brothers.
Common ideologies bring people together as do common goals. Neighborhoods form in which residents share a common cultural background. Seniors congregate at the senior center and bond together. Their age, and the challenges that go with it, giving them common ground.
There are many other things that bring people together, but there is one element that is the bottom line for each of these things: something shared.
In God’s Word, we believers are directed to keep, or guard, the unity of the spirit.
Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
What is this unity and what is the basis of it? Unity of the spirit is the unity, oneness, that relates to or is derived from spiritual matters. The basis of this unity is given in the verses that follow.
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
We all share in being members of the same body, having the same spirit, the same hope, the same lord, the same faith, the same baptism of the spirit, the same God and Father. These are matters that give us great cause for rejoicing and great cause for unity among us. When kept in proper perspective, any and all differences among believers are by comparison to these things infinitesimally small potatoes. Even within our small home fellowship there is a wide range of ages, vocations, family backgrounds, political viewpoints, personal goals, economic standing, etc. So what? These differences are nothing compared to what we share. The key to maintaining the unity of the spirit is not to endeavor to become more like one another. It is to continually recognize that our differences are relatively insignificant compared to what we share.
A key word in verse 3 above is the word, “endeavoring.” It is translated from the Greek word, “spoudazo,” (pronounced as spoodadzo) and it means to hasten as well as to give diligence. One could be diligent in a faithful but plodding manner, but that is not the imagery brought out by spoudazo. The mind picture here is one of hurrying in one’s hard work to get the job done as soon as possible. God knows we will not always be able to keep the unity of the spirit, but He wants us to try real hard (forgive my colloquialism) to do so, and He has given us the basis to be able to be successful in our spoudazo endeavor.
He has also given the believers another help: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These men and women are for the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, and the edifying of the body of Christ. “Perfecting” is a continuing process. We’ll never get all the way there until Jesus Christ returns to gather us together, ushering in the total unity of the faith we can now only strive toward.
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
Yes, there will be times when we will be tempted to lose the unity of the spirit. We may feel hurt because we think we have been disrespected, neglected, misunderstood, or whatever and perhaps indeed we have been. But the ministries listed above are given to us to help us grow up and stop being children as well as keep us from being deceived by various winds of doctrine.
Ephesians 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
We believers share so much. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.
Romans 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
We have all received the same righteousness of God unto all who believe.
Romans 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Our self-identity should not be primarily a matter of our nationality, cultural background, or any other physical, worldly circumstance. We should always maintain God’s viewpoint. We are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
In consideration of all these things, let us endeavor to fulfill the desire expressed in Romans 15.
Romans 15:5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.