Last month, the reading from 1 Peter finished with this verse: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have a sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart” (v22). Peter was in the room at the last supper when Jesus shared with His disciples the new command that they were to live by: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Peter experienced and knew the kind of love that Jesus was talking about… after all, he had been hanging around with Him for three years. He had to learn to love the other disciples, all who came from varying backgrounds and classes (remember that Matthew, as a tax collector, would have been hated by the ordinary Jew). But Jesus’ example of love meant that they indeed learned to love with a sincere brotherly love, and so Peter was able to share with other believers this new command. I believe that as we learn to love more and more like Jesus, knowing that the Father’s love for Him is the same love that He’s given to us (John 17:26), then the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21, “that they will all be one,” will get closer to being answered. Unity amongst believers is a key to seeing the world saved: “May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” Let’s hear from Youth for Christ Canada’s Joel Martin as he reflects on what it is to be a movement that walks in unity and maturity.
Unity and Maturity by Joel Martin, Youth for Christ Canada Prayer Coordinator
A movement saturated in prayer looks like a movement that walks in unity and maturity. As we consider these defining attributes of a movement saturated in prayer, I encourage you to slowly and prayerfully read Ephesians 4:1-16.
What does this passage tell us about unity and maturity?
4:12-13 “…so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Why is the body of Christ being built up? Why does the church exist? What is the primary purpose of the people of God? Unity and maturity in Christ. Our primary purpose and our pursuit is Christ, to know Him and be transformed into His image. What if we measured our growth as a movement not just by numbers but by our maturity and unity in Christ?
We are Christ’s body. Think of all the ways in which our physical body is united. Bones, muscles, lungs, heart, nerves, etc., each system so intricately connected to the others. Now think of all the ways in which our bodies grow and mature from conception to adulthood. Our body is healthy and fully functioning when all the systems are united and maturing together. We are Christ’s body, “…growing up into Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
But how do we get there? When we look around the body of Christ, and even within ourselves, we recognize that unity and maturity are not easy to come by. They don’t happen by accident. Like all spiritual growth it takes both effort and grace.
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace… but to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (4:3,7)
It will take effort, every effort, to grow in unity and maturity, and it will also take grace, much grace. Our effort and God’s grace are not at odds with each other. As with our bodies, we can’t make them grow, but there are things we can do to facilitate growth, like exercising and eating right. So, too, with our spiritual lives. Spiritual disciplines, of which prayer (communion with God) is central for all, don’t make us grow, but they are essential to facilitate growth.
Unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.
Maturity, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of God.
These are core to who we are as the body of Christ and defining marks of a movement saturated in prayer. May they be true of us as well in increasing measure.
“Christ, Be thou our vision, oh Lord of our heart!”
As you read through Ephesians 4, what stood out to you?
What “effort” do you need to make to keep or restore the “bond of peace?” Do you need to apologise to someone? Do you need to forgive someone?
Have you had an attitude that has caused division or separation in your relationships in ministry or church? What do you need to do to make things right?
How can you make an “effort” to see unity amongst churches and/or ministries in your area?
Praise Jesus for the grace that He has given to us. Ask Him to help you to extend that grace to others.
Ask God to fill you afresh with His love so that you may love others as He does.
And remember to pray as Jesus prayed “that we may all be one.” Let’s continue to pray for unity in the body of Christ so that young people can see what it truly means to know that God sent Jesus to be the saving sacrifice for their sins.
Until next time,
International Prayer Director
P.S. For further reflection on this topic of unity, I highly recommend watching the video by Francis Chan, “Impossible Unity,” and reading his book, “Until Unity.”