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“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6 NIV)

The Father wants one body so much that He has already given it to us – our job is not to create unity but to maintain what has been given. But, while unity obviously lies in Christ through the Holy Spirit, it needs to be a visible unity.

We are one family – how we get along with our brothers and sisters is up to us but that doesn’t change our status in the family. We’re blood relatives in Christ! Unity, by the Holy Spirit, is given to the body - what God asks of us is harmony: arms working with legs working with eyes and ears working with tongues, stronger parts aiding weaker parts. All submitted to the head, Christ Jesus.

Nothing is more valuable than a family atmosphere in which each person values each other member, as well as the way their diversities blend together. And yet, family harmony doesn’t happen by itself. In music, harmony is achieved when distinct coordinated notes are played simultaneously forming a chord. The word chord itself comes from a shortening of the old Middle English word accord, which speaks of an agreement reached between separate and distinct parties. As in music, creating harmony in a family requires a certain level of knowledge, practice, and dedication to pull it off. A family philosophy of harmony must be a joint creation, not only a mandate handed down by the conductor. Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “It is not the unity of religion we pray for, but the unity of religious people. We may not be able to meet in the same pew but we an meet on our knees.” Harmony within the family is to reflect and celebrate the unique personality and calling of each person, just as our Father does. This is God’s choosing. Harmony is one of God’s universal themes. Like it or not, this is His will.

The musical concept of harmony involves unity, but it should not be confused with uniformity, where all notes would be identical. This is an important distinction to grasp. Just as we need to embrace the different bents within our own family, we need to embrace our brothers and sisters in Christ encouraging them to live out their faith in Jesus until the Lord calls them to something else. We should define ourselves by our core, Jesus, not by our parameter practices. Our differences are not usually over our beliefs about Christ but our practices. The late Reuel Lemmons wisely expressed this tension, “Unity at the expense of doctrine is unacceptable, and doctrine at the expense of unity is obnoxious.”

Unity is not expressed or maintained in how we agree with each other, where there is uniformity, but in how we disagree. God is pleased with any expression of our faith (trust) in Him. Allowing opposing patterns of faith is not relativism nor is it approval of both. God doesn’t have two minds; there are not two opposing “truths.” It means having the Father’s perspective of what is valued – read Romans Chapter 14.

Look at Jesus’ teaching on how His family should relate: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21-24 NIV)

I underlined “brother” to be certain you didn’t miss the familial nature of Jesus’ teaching; this teaching is directed to His spiritual family. It is clear that our relationship within our spiritual family affects our relationship with our Heavenly Father. The two relationships, vertical and horizontal, can not be separated from each other. While we come to Him individually, we move out in His name collectively.

Howard Magness

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