Walk In Unity, Part 2
In our last study of this chapter, we talked about the unity of the church. We spoke specifically about the plea for unity issued by Paul in verse 3. In that verse, Paul challenges the church to work toward “keeping the “unity” within the church. Believers are not required to create unity but to keep the unity that already theirs in Christ. He goes on to tell us that this is only possible when we allow the Spirit of God within us to cause us to walk together as one. The truth is unless there is unity within the church, there will be no power within the church!
At the end of the day, unity in the church comes down to two great essentials. First, we must love one another like God commands us to, Matt. 22:39; John 13:35. Second, we must yield to the control of the Holy Spirit who dwells within every believer. When we submit to His control, He will cause us to live out the “Fruit of the Spirit,” Gal. 5:22-23, which will cause us to walk together in love, peace and unity.
With that in mind, I want to probe deeper into this passage. Having considered, last week, Paul’s plea for unity, let’s look next at what might be the problem (lack of understanding) with unity.
II. THE PROBLEM OF UNITY
I will just touch on this thought because it is not explicitly mentioned in this text. It is, however, clearly implied. In verse 3, Paul commands us to be about the business of “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” If we must work to guard the unity of the church, then it seems to me that this unity must be a fragile thing. The unity of the church must be something that could be easily forfeited.
The problem with unity in the church is this: the church is made up of people. I have heard it said, and have said it myself, “if it weren’t for the people, the church would be a great place.” That is said in fun, because without the people, there is no church. To put it plainly, the people (we) are the church.
While we the people are the church, we the people are also the problem. We, the people who make up the local church, are the guardians of the unity produced within us by the Holy Spirit, but we are also the greatest danger to that unity. Why is that? Many reasons could be listed, but I will mention just a few for the sake of time.
· We are sometimes selfish, self-centered, and want our own way.
· We are jealous when we see others succeed, get blessed or be promoted.
· We get angry when we think we have been wronged.
· We act out of spite hoping to hurt those we think have hurt us.
· We fail to forgive the wrongs done to us by other.
· We fail to love the Lord like we should, then we cannot love others like we should. By the way, when you fail to give love, you are not able to receive love either!
· We allow the sinful flesh to be manifested in all our human interactions.
· We are brought together from different backgrounds, with different views about right and wrong, and with different opinions about how things ought to be done.
· We have different agendas in life. That is, we have different opinions about what the church should be, should do, and how it should operate.
To sum it up in a sentence, we are different one from another, and that is the greatest threat to the unity of the church. That will always be the problem here on this earth.
III. THE PATH TO UNITY
Let’s back up to verse 2 and talk about The Path to Unity. In this verse, Paul mentions several characteristics that should be true of each of us. These characteristics, if they are true in your life and mine, will go a long way to helping us “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
The only way we will ever fulfill the challenge of verse 1, which says, “I…beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,” is to be sure that the following characteristics are true in our lives. It is the only way we can ever hope to “balance the scales,” which is what the word “worthy” means.
If we really want to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord, and that help the church walk in unity, we must be sure that our lives are marked by the characteristics Paul lists in verse 2. Since they are so vital, we will take the time to understand each of them and what they teach us about the kind of people we should be for the glory of God.
Lowliness - This word means “to think or judge with lowliness; to possess lowliness of mind.” It speaks of “humility.” This word, in its Greek form, was never found in secular writing. It was a word coined by Christians. Roman and Greek society had no concept of humility. The person who placed others ahead of self was considered weak, a coward, and unnatural. They looked at anyone who was humble as being weak. So, when Paul wanted a word to describe the humble person, he had to invent the word. The Greeks and Romans believed that people should be proud and self-satisfied. They believed that anyone who took a low view of themselves was warped. This word was later picked up by some secular writers, and it was always used in a derogatory fashion to describe Christians as weak.
The world might look upon humility as a weakness, but it is the most fundamental of Christian virtues. Without humility we can never please the Lord. Without humility, we can never be like Christ, Phil. 2:5-8. Humility is the opposite of pride. Pride is defined as, “a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.”
Pride is essentially thinking more of yourself than you have a right to. Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
Our world is filled with pride. People talk all the time about being proud of their jobs, their possessions, their families, their job, their children, etc. The world is all about boasting and bragging and posturing. That attitude has even infiltrated the church. We give awards, plaques, degrees, and applause to one another, and it’s all done in a way that makes pride acceptable to us.
· Pride was at the heart of the first sin, Isa. 14:12-23.
· Pride was at the heart of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden, Gen. 3:6-7.
· Pride is soundly condemned in the Word of God, Pro. 11:2; 16:18; 21:4.
· Pride will be judged by the Lord, Isa. 2:11; 3:16-26; Jer. 50:31-32.
· Pride is at the heart of every temptation that comes our way from Satan because pride is at the center of his very nature. As long as we are in this flesh, we will battle pride. Satan will ever be seeking ways to cause us to rob God of His glory by exalting ourselves.
· Pride is the sin of competing with God, Gen. 3:5-6. When we are proud of our talents, our abilities, our education, our knowledge, our possessions, our appearance, our skills, our wealth, etc, we are guilty of pride. We are guilty of self-exaltation. We are guilty of sin!
· Pride will cause you to dominate every conversation. Pride will cause you to talk about yourself. One of your favorite words will be “I”. Pride will cause you to be rude, thinking you are more important than everyone else.
Let me share with you some of the characteristics of pride. When any of these are true in our lives, there is an issue with pride.
· Being blind, unable to see pride.
· Outbursts of anger, withdrawing, pouting, being moody or impatient because one’s perceived rights or schedules aren’t being met.
· Perfectionistic-type persons who want to be the best at everything are also proud.
· Monopolizing conversations, being rigid, stubborn, headstrong, and intimidating.
· Being consumed with what others might think.
· Being devastated by criticism.
· Being unteachable.
· Being sarcastic, hurtful, jesting.
· Being defensive.
· Lacking in biblical prayer, in service to other people, and in sacrificial deeds of love.
· Resisting authority and being disrespectful toward others.
Pride is something that is easy to see in the lives of others, but nearly impossible to see in self. Pride is at the heart of all our sin, and all our problems in human relationships. It is the reason disunity arises within the body of Christ. It is the reason people don’t pray, read their Bibles and attend church like they should. It lies at the heart of every sin.
This passage is not about pride; it is about its opposite humility. What is humility. The dictionary defines it as, “the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.”
The word used here for “lowliness” literally means, “a deep sense of one’s littleness.”
Humility is something that we will never see in ourselves, yet it is something that others see in our lives when it is there. When they mention it, the truly humble person will not see it, because they are incapable of acknowledging it. If they acknowledged the fact that they were humble, that would be pride and humility would be instantly forfeited.
True humility involves two essential components.
First, it involves a proper view of oneself.
· The truly humble person sees himself as he really is. Our human nature is to exaggerate our own good qualities while we minimize the good in others. Our nature is to make ourselves look better than we truly are.
· The genuinely humble person does not compare himself to others, 2 Cor. 10:12.
· The genuinely humble person realizes that he lacks the ability to do anything by himself, but that everything he has and is has been given to him by the Lord, 2 Cor. 3:5; John 15:5.
· The first step in achieving humility is learning to see yourself as you really are. Most of us are a long way from that goal today.
· There is nothing more humbling than to see yourself as you truly are.
Second, it involves a proper view of God.
· The truly humble person sees God as the source of salvation,
· The truly humble person sees God as the source of all righteousness,
· The truly humble person sees God as the source of all blessing, all success, and all ability,
· The truly humble person sees God as He is, and that awareness of God causes the humble person to respond in ways that demonstrate that humility.
· Isaiah saw God and he was humbled in His presence - Isa. 6:1-5.
· Paul saw God as He was and was forced to see himself as he was, 1 Tim. 1:15.
· Peter saw God as he was and recognized his own sin, Luke 5:8.
· Job saw God as He was and he was forced to see himself as he was, Job 42:6.
We must all come to the place where we understand that God is not impressed with our education, our fame, our abilities, our skill, our achievements, what we have done or where we have been. All that means exactly nothing to God. When we rely on those things, instead of relying on God, we erect an impenetrable barrier between ourselves and Him.
Pride and humility also affect the way we function together as a church. When I walk in pride, I will demand my own way. I will be offended when I do not get my way. I will wear my feelings on my shoulders and get my feelings hurt easily. I will seek to exalt myself, what I think, who I am, and what I have done. All these things, and many more, certainly undermine the unity of the church.
However, when I walk in humility, I will realize that nothing in life is about me, about what I want, or about how I feel. I will realize that everything is about the glory of God. I will look for ways to honor God with my words and my walk. I will yield myself to the Spirit of God and trust Him to lead me in the right ways.
While God stands against pride, He has promised to bless the humble, Matt. 5:3, James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:6. When we lose ourselves in Him, we will be used by Him and blessed by Him. But, as long as we continue to walk in pride, we are doomed to failure, and we condemn the church to continuing struggles with unity.
True humility is not thinking little of yourself and much of others. True humility is not thinking of yourself at all! When we become truly humble, we cease to matter to ourselves.
Pride and the lack of humility are devastating to the unity in the church because we all have this tendency within us to promote self. When Jesus spoke of the second commandment, He said, “This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” Matthew 22:39. He knew that we had no problem loving self; He knew the real test of our character was loving others to that same level.
Most of the time we do not love to that level. As a result, we are often guilty of putting ourselves and our agenda ahead of what is best for the body of Christ. When that alone is the desire of every heart, the church will walk in perfect unity to the glory of God.