I love Colossians 2:2: “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,” (NASB).
Paul had a great desire for believers to live in harmony, and to love and encourage one another. But what does it mean to live in unity? What does that even look like?
Believers are called to unity
Believers are encouraged to live in unity, both in the Old and New Testaments. One example is Psalm 133:1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!” (NASB)
Another is Colossians 3:14, which says, “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (NASB)
We know that this is something important because it is mentioned several times. So let’s take a closer look at this idea of unity.
What is unity
Let’s start with a definition of “unity.” According to dictionary.com, unity is: “oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.”
Sharing the same way of thinking. Feeling the same way another person does. Being in agreement. Those are good, but somewhat abstract, ideas. Let’s put this in real-world terms.
What the world says
Piper argues there’s more to our calling to unity than just agreeing politically.
How about marriage? That’s one union that ought to be a good example, right?
Unfortunately, in our society, the divorce rate is so high (50% or more!) that this has become a poor example of unity. After all, if we are only united as long as things go the way we want, and we leave when we can’t have things our own way, then the foundation of our unity is very shaky!
Paul surely had something else in mind.
What does it mean to live in unity
Two of Paul’s other letters address the idea of unity among believers, and he gives some very specific examples. The first he addresses to the church in Ephesus.
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3, NASB
Here Paul mentions that this unity (shown through our humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, and diligence) should be of the Spirit.
This isn’t political unity. It’s not a temporary unity. Because of the Holy Spirit who lives in each believer, we ought to be unified in Him.
Paul goes on to encourage the Phillippian believers in much the same way.
“Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Phil. 2:2-4, NASB
Did you notice the mention again of humility? And that the unity he’s encouraging is “in spirit”? I don’t think he’s talking here about cheering for the same ball teams… This unity among believers goes much, much deeper.
Paul goes on to share how Christ, humbling Himself even to the point of death, ought to be our example. Christ’s example is one of humility, of serving others, and of being filled with the Spirit. When our focus is on serving the Lord and following the leading of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we will be much more unified with our brothers and sisters in the Lord who are seeking the same.
Then we will be able to live in unity.