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OceanSide church of Christ

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ESSENTIAL ATTITUDES FOR UNITY

Victor M. Eskew

 

         In Ephesians 4:4-6, the apostle Paul lists the “Seven Ones” of unity.  “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in 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 you all.”  In the three verses preceding these pillars of unity, Paul sets forth some essential attitudes for unity.  He wrote:  “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).  This writer sees six qualities that are listed by Paul that are essential for each one of us to possess is unity is going to prevail in this congregation.  Let’s elaborate on these in the remainder of this article.

          First, we must desire to be pleasing to God if unity is to prevail.  Paul’s words are that we are to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”  If we are not concerned about walking worthily before God, unity will not be a high priority.  On the other hand, if we have a strong desire to please God, unity will be something that is foremost on our minds.  It will be important because of our knowledge of the Lord’s prayer in John 17.  “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us:  that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (vs. 20, 21).  God’s desire is for oneness among His people.  This oneness is not a “unity-in-diversity.”  It is a oneness like the oneness that exists within the Godhead.  Those who desire to please God will strive to be obedient to God’s will for unity.

          The second trait listed by the apostle is “lowliness.”  Strong’s defines this word a “humiliation of mind, i.e., modesty.”  Thayer expounds upon this word with more detail.  He says that it means:  “the having a humble opinion of one’s self; a deep sense of one’s (moral) littleness; modesty, humility, lowliness of mind.”  This word involves one’s view of self.  If one sees himself as great, indispensable, better than other, and exalted above others, he will be a weak link in the chain of unity.  Those who are haughty and proud tend to look down upon, harshly criticize, and ridicule their brothers and sisters in Christ.  They are the ones who gossip and bear tales within the church.  Members soon learn who these people are and how they operate.  Unless one is of like mind in his arrogance, he wants nothing to do with this group.  Unity cannot be had in such an atmosphere.  Unity flourishes when each member sees himself as “low, unimportant, trifling, small, and paltry” (Cremer as quoted by Earle in Word Meanings in the New Testatment, p. 310).

          Meekness is the third element of unity Paul sets forth in Ephesians 4:1-3.  Some have attributed weakness to meekness in the past.  They picture one who is shy, reserve, and who sits quietly in the corner as one who is meek.  Is this the picture we get of Jesus in the gospels?  Not at all, yet He was meek (Matt. 11:28-30).  There is no doubt that this word is difficult to define in English.  Some have said it involves “gentleness.”  Vines states that “this word is no better than that used in both English Versions” (p. 401).  Meekness seems to involve two things:  1)  a “temper of spirit in which we accept his (God’s” dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting” (Earle, p. 311), and 2) a moral courage that springs from one’s relationship with God that enables him to stand for right in the face of all opposition.  It is not an unkind and unloving disposition.  This is why it is often coupled with lowliness.  However, it is a quality that will not allow evil to permeate the unity of the church.

          The fourth quality needed for unity is longsuffering.  The word that most often describes longsuffering is “patience.”  Thayer give this definition:  “patience, forebearance, long-suffering, slowness in avenging wrongs” (p. 387).  Vine says:  “Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate for promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God…” (p. 377).  This is a quality that is difficult for some to put into practice.  When one gets under their skin, they feel the need to immediately upbraid and chastise the individual.  If another wounds them, they feel they must wither withdraw or retaliate.  These actions are the opposite of longsuffering.  Patient endurance with our brethren, with their flawed personalities, obnoxious behavior, unkind words, and harmful acts will promote unity among believers.

          The fifth quality is closely linked with longsuffering.  Paul says that we must be willing to forebear with one another in love.  The word “forbear” carries some interesting definitions:  1) to bear with, endure (Vines, p. 247), and 2) to put up with (Strong, p. 12).  We are to put up with, endure, and bear with the difficult, unkind, harsh, coarse, “hard to get along with” brethren.  They will do all in their power to NOT associate with those they dislike.  Real unity cannot be claimed, however, until we can love all and desire to put up with one another.

          The last quality of unity is the willingness to work for it achievement.  Understanding the meaning of the other words in Paul’s list helps us to see that unity is not always easy to obtain.  It takes work on the part of every member.  We must endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  The word “endeavor” means “to make haste, give diligence, exert one’s self, and to put forth effort with eagerness.”  If unity is going to prevail we must want it.  Then, we must work at it.  We must put forth the necessary labor to attain it.  Usually this means that we must first work on ourselves.  We must make the inward changes necessary that will allow unity to flourish in a warm, nourishing environment.

          The psalmist said:  “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps. 133:1).  His words are true.  Unity is a blessing.  Where it is found, it did not come accidentally.  Brother and sister in Christ developed themselves into a people among whom unity can thrive.  May God help us to develop these traits within our lives so the Lord’s prayer of John 17 can be fulfilled in us.  Let us manifest these traits so that we can appropriately implement the “seven ones” on unity that follow in Ephesians 4:4-6.