Today’s reading:  Mathew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-29, Luke 21:29-31, Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity (Psalm 133:1).

Did you and your spouse light a unity candle at your wedding? I’m not sure if this is still a wedding tradition or not (it might not have made it past the 1900’s).  Nevertheless, it is still a good illustration – at the beginning of the wedding ceremony, a representative from each family (usually the mothers of the bride and groom) light the two taper candles. Later in the ceremony (usually after the formal vows), the bride and groom use the two taper candles to light the large pillar (unity) candle together.  Lighting the unity candle, and blowing out the separate taper candles, represents two lives being joined together as one.

As I was writing this post, I was thinking about the day B.J. and I got married. I think we lit a unity candle in our wedding, but I honestly can’t remember.  This morning I went downstairs to my storage room to see if I could find a picture.  After nearly breaking my neck trying to navigate the mess that is our storage room, I quickly gave up.  After twenty-four years of marriage B.J. and I are pretty unified whether or not we lit a dumb candle or not.  We both still love Jesus and share a common purpose – to glorify him with our lives.  But you know what?  We still disagree and bicker over a lot of relatively unimportant issues (like a messy rooms).  If not kept in check, our disagreement can take over, and will eventually lead to division.  Even the strongest of relationships are not immune from this risk.

In Psalm 133, as well as many other places throughout the scriptures, the church is called to Unity. It sounds good, but have you ever thought about why it is so important?  As I was reading and preparing for this post, a few key thoughts hit home for me.  These points are relevant to unity in the church as well as unity in our relationships.

Unity is theologically critical

Jesus Christ is the center of our faith. He is the way.  If we are not united on this foundational truth, everything else we stand for becomes meaningless.

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:6).

It is a powerful witness

A church unified around the mission of spreading the gospel is powerful. Satan knows the best way to keep a church from fulfilling its mission is to get people arguing over non-essentials, turning their focus inward, and losing their evangelistic passion.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you 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).

Unity sounds easy, but is incredibly hard to achieve and maintain. How do we do it?  While easier said than done, a few key suggestions from God’s word:

Keep Jesus Christ at the center

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Be humble, gentle and patient, bear with one another in love

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).