Hi everyone! I heard a teaching recently on unity, using the first verse of Psalm 133 as its basis: How good and pleasant it is for God’s people to dwell together in unity. It’s hard to argue with this concept, the goodness and rightness of people living together in peace and agreement. Of course, it’s easy to talk about concepts, much harder to implement them.
Have you ever found yourself wondering why God put this or that person in your small group or on your ministry team or in your church? They are so bothersome or foolish or irritating or sinful–if they just left, everything would be so much better. I have to admit that I’ve had thoughts like these before.
One time I was helping to organize a service day. We had asked for volunteers to head up various portions of the day. A seventy-year-old whipper-snapper of a woman, whom I did not know well, volunteered, and we had to work together on a few aspects of the day. Well, this gal had managed an office for years, and she immediately went into “management” mode. Long story short, she ruffled a few feathers along the way, we had a few chats about it, and then I got frustrated.
I thought it was ridiculous the amount of time (my time) being wasted, and I began to work around her, rather than take the time to get to know her better, to discover who she was and what her heart was like. I regret it to this day. How beautiful it might have been if I’d been able to stop myself for a moment and take a look at this precious woman of God with a different pair of eyes, with the eyes of love instead of eyes of frustration and disdain. No one deserves that.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian pastor and victim of the holocaust, felt that each of us has a “wish dream” of what Christian community should look like–some kind of happy place where everyone is smiling and getting along. But Bonhoeffer cautions us that God’s community is filled with flawed people and that our wish dreams are lies. God calls us to live with and love each other in spite of our failings and weaknesses. In other words, community is messy. It’s painful. It’s hard work. But oh, the sweetness and joy we experience when put the hard work in.
How is this kind of unity possible? First, we have to acknowledge our imperfections and flaws, that is, come right to the table knowing that none of us is perfect. Second, go to God. Ask for love and grace to overlook wrongs, to address wrongs lovingly when necessary, to forgive repeatedly, and to work together peacefully. Third, communicate, communicate, communicate. Fourth, learn how to communicate better. Fifth, go back to step one and start all over again.
Real unity is an incredibly attractive force.
I’m sure you can see the whole point of this community-building agenda that God has. He wants us to rely on him for whatever we need (strength, wisdom, patience, etc.) to develop unity in our community. Through this process he grows us up and develops our character. And finally, he wants us to cause others to notice our unity and want a piece of it. Real unity is an incredibly attractive force.
What if the whole point of living together and working together is the together part, not the getting things done part? What if our Dad is really watching how we work together, rather than looking at what our working together produces? Next time I’m confronted with a whipper-snapper in management mode, I’m going to slow down and take a deep breath. I hope I’ll ask the Lord for insight into the person and the situation. I’ll listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit and approach things more intentionally, and more lovingly. More love, that’s what I need; yes, that’s what I’ll ask for.