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Cultivating Unity: The Power of Humility and Love

May 20, 20235 min read

Theological Reflections on Ecclesial Unity: The Essential Role of Humility and Love

We are called, as Christians, to love and support one another, to build one another up, and to bear one another's burdens. (1 Thess. 5:11; Gal. 6:2).

The church needs unity for several reasons. First and foremost, “It’s What the Trinity Wants” (Francis Chan, Until Unity). In John 17:21, Jesus prays for his followers, "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." 

This verse emphasizes the importance of church unity in reflecting the unity of the Godhead and bearing witness to the world.

Secondly, unity is essential for the church to effectively carry out its mission. The church exists to spread the gospel and make disciples of all nations. A divided and disunited church is less effective in this mission than a united one. 

Ultimately, the church needs unity because it is part of God's plan for his people. As Ephesians 4:3 says, we are to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." When we are united, we are better able to serve and glorify God and fulfill the purposes for which he has called us.

“How can so many of us miss the importance of unity when it’s the whole point of the cross? Jesus suffered and died to unite us with the Father and each other. To disregard unity is to disparage the cross." (Francis Chan, Until Unity)

How can we reach unity? Francis Chan says it starts with repentance, but what is repentance without humility? Andrew Murray says, in his book Humility, that “Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.” In other words, humility is the foundation upon which all other virtues are built, not just one aspect of our character. Humility is not just a nice quality to have; it is essential for cultivating the other virtues and qualities that are necessary for achieving unity. When we are humble, we can put aside our own egos and desires and focus on the needs and interests of others. This selflessness is an important component of unity because it allows us to collaborate on a common goal rather than being distracted by our own personal agendas. 

Humility is a foundational virtue in Christian discipleship, forming the bedrock of a believer's journey. It serves as a catalyst for unity, enabling individuals to set aside their own interests and desires in deference to others and God. This essay delves into the significance of humility in the context of Christian life and its potential to foster harmony among believers.

At its core, humility involves a genuine willingness to disregard personal interests and desires. It compels believers to align their motives with the desires of others, ultimately surrendering to the will of God. Humility humbles the human heart, enabling it to acknowledge its limitations and imperfections while recognizing the inherent worth and value of others. By embracing humility, Christians learn to cast aside selfish ambitions, paving the way for deeper relationships and a more profound connection with God.

Humility plays a pivotal role in fostering unity among believers. When individuals lay aside their personal motives and egos, they create an environment conducive to collaboration and cooperation. In the absence of pride and self-centeredness, believers can work together harmoniously, pursuing God's larger purposes for His kingdom. Unity, then, becomes a natural consequence of humble hearts willing to set aside individual interests for the greater good.

Humility promotes empathy and understanding, enabling believers to empathize with the experiences, challenges, and perspectives of others. It shifts the focus away from oneself, fostering an environment of active listening and compassionate response. As Christians embrace humility, they grow in their ability to connect with others, building bridges of empathy and reconciliation.

Tim Keller's poignant statement about true gospel humility captures the essence of this virtue. When individuals practice self-forgetfulness, they stop connecting every experience and conversation with themselves. The freedom found in self-forgetfulness liberates believers from the entrapment of self-centeredness, allowing them to find rest in the acknowledgment of God's sovereignty.

True gospel humility doesn't diminish self-worth but rather redirects attention away from self and toward God and others. It is a transformative mindset that recognizes God as the ultimate authority and source of significance. In embracing this humility, believers discover a newfound freedom, unburdened by the constant preoccupation with self-image and personal achievements.

Self-forgetfulness opens the door to deeper intimacy with God. By releasing the need for self-promotion and recognition, individuals can fully surrender to God's will and purpose for their lives. This humility allows believers to embrace their identities as beloved children of God, finding security and contentment in His love and acceptance.

Humility stands as the foundational virtue of Christian discipleship, providing the key to unity and self-forgetfulness. By choosing humility, believers cultivate an attitude that prioritizes the desires of others and God, setting aside personal motives and interests. Humility nurtures a spirit of empathy, promotes unity among believers, and invites a deep intimacy with God. As Tim Keller eloquently states, true gospel humility offers the freedom of self-forgetfulness, bringing blessed rest to those who embrace it.

In the pursuit of unity among believers, humility plays a crucial role. It is through humility that we recognize that we are not all-knowing but that we all are serving the same God who is. To accept God’s grace, we must humble ourselves, for we are weak, sinful, and broken, but He is mighty. Andrew Murray says, “Jesus Christ took the place and fulfilled the destiny of man as a creature by his life of perfect humility. His humility became our salvation. His salvation is our humility.”

Let us be unified in this: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).

For those seeking additional guidance and insight on unity, I highly recommend reading Francis Chan's book, Until Unity. Chan's writing encourages readers to examine their own hearts and behaviors in relation to unity and offers practical guidance on how to cultivate unity in our communities. Until Unity is an inspiring and thought-provoking read that will encourage and equip believers to pursue unity with humility and love.

William Hamilton

I am a humble follower of Jesus Christ, dedicated to sharing the truth of the gospel. As a writer and seeker of knowledge, I am continually learning and growing in my faith. With a passion for deep theological understanding and a heart for apologetics, I strive to articulate the message of God's love and grace with clarity and humility. Through my website, I aim to provide thoughtful and edifying content, offering insights into biblical truths, cultural issues, and the relevance of Christianity in today's world. My desire is to glorify God, make disciples, and point others to the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ.

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