Peace in Christ
How do we define unity? As soon as we attempt to do so, unity vanishes, because how we define unity becomes more important than the person who makes us one. Consider instead Paul’s approach to the shamefully carnal and divided early Christian community in Corinth. “I decided,” he declared, “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2, italics mine).
Our differences don’t go away when we are together in the presence of Jesus, but the cross puts our sin, our self-centeredness, and our hostility to death.
These verses must be the center piece of every Christ-follower:
For he [Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups [hostile Jews and Gentiles or hostile _________ and _____________] into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us . . . that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death their hostility through it. (Ephesians 2:14-16)
Jesus did this for us, for our whole hostile world, and He prayed for you and me in John chapter 17—as He continues to pray for us—to be one. And get this, He prays for us to be one as He and the Father are One. As the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in the Holy Trinity. We are not just talking about agreements to be nice to each other even if we don’t like each other. To be one as the three Persons of the Trinity are one is, well, mind-boggling.
Before Jesus broke down the dividing wall that existed between us, hostility reigned. Why is it so difficult for us to enjoy the fruit of this wonderful work Jesus did for us—peace?
My deepest personal conviction is this: Our relationship with God is based on Jesus plus nothing, and that changes everything. In contrast, if we believe that God loves us, or another person, because of Jesus plus something, then that “something” will always divide us. Jesus put an end to the hostility that divided us at the cross. He took care of the dividing wall.
The apostle Paul uses a powerful image to help us understand how unity works. The Bible uses the term “unity” perhaps most notably in Ephesians 4:3: “Making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Notice it doesn’t say, “Maintain the unity we create for God.” No, Paul is urging us to keep the unity of the Spirit. It isn’t our business to make unity happen. It’s our business to make every effort to honor and uphold what God gives us in Christ. Unity is never a human thing. It’s always a God thing.
It is a unity, a oneness that is possible only through the miracle-working love of God—love that’s patient and kind. Love that pleads with God to forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Beloved Father, thank you for making peace happen. I pray that you will give me the grace to make every effort to honor and uphold what you have given us in Christ. Amen.
From the United in Christ study by the John 17 movement and the El Centro Network on Youversion