This Sunday, May 15th will be Terri’s and my 40th anniversary. What’s great about our marriage is what makes many corporations, churches and denominations strong. Terri and I have never fought! We find ourselves having the same ideas and goals on every matter. We prefer the same food, entertainment, hobbies, and music. Our parenting philosophy was exactly the same, and our Grand-parenting strategy is identical. We have lived for 40 years in idyllic unity. NOT! Honestly, we haven’t always agreed, and may have fought once or twice (a day). But, we do still have unity.
Let me explain. We actually don’t have identical ideas, desires, or preferences. Our unity is not based on agreeing on all the details of life, but on a few central themes and principles. It’s strengthened by love, fed by our oneness of purpose, and sustained by our resolution to come to agreement on things that really require an agreement. Early on we agreed that Christ was to be our foundation. Now, we haven’t been perfect, but we know that when we get our eyes off of Christ; we will focus on our own hurts, preferences and opinions. Here are three passages of Scripture that teach how we are to develop unity.
Romans 12:9, 10 Be devoted to one another… Honor one another above yourselves.
Ephesians 4:2, 3 Bearing with one another in love…. Keep the unity.
Philippians 2:2, 3 Be one in spirit and purpose… Consider others better than yourselves.
The most important truths here are that to love and focus on serving others can only be found by focusing on Christ. This is true in a marriage, a corporation, a church or a denomination. Feeling disunity with your spouse? Feeling disunity with the people you once felt called to be united with? Stop trying to please yourself, defending your priorities, and looking to have your own way. Begin to seek unity by selfless, and Godly service to them.
When we decide that God wants to display His power and love through our unity, we are brought to focus unwaveringly on Him. By seeking Godly unity we allow Him to heal our relationships. We are called to this: not winning, not even being heard, but to Godly unity.
So what is there that we can refocus on as a people when disunity threatens to tear us apart? Terri and I learned that when we got our eyes off of our Lord, and our purpose as a couple, we naturally focused on our own hurts, desires, preferences and opinions. A business will have an appropriate purpose, but that foundation is what needs to be focused on, while seeking to be filled with God’s love for each other. What is the purpose for a Christian church, or denomination? Our mission, is simply the great commission. Using our God-given gifts, talents and abilities to bring the Gospel of Christ and His ministry of love and reconciliation to our communities, and displaying that love by loving each other.
In a marriage as in a church, a corporation, or a denomination, our unity is not based on our agreeing on all the details of life, but on a few central themes and principles. It is strengthened by God’s love, feed by our oneness of purpose, and sustained by our resolution to come to agreement on everything that really requires an agreement.
Terri and I have long realized that love requires work. It needs fed, and it needs nurtured. Sometimes we have done better at it than others, but when our unity is being strained, we know that if we work on love and service to each other, the disagreements we have will become more and more minor. For a corporation, a church, or a denomination, the overriding value that strengthens unity is a love for others that exceeds love for ourselves. That might be a good place to leave this as we continue to consider how to lead our families, businesses, and churches into the future.
1 Cor 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.