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Background Text: Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Devotional Text: 1 Peter 3:8

It’s a new year, a time to re-think the past year, and a time to focus on making this year a better one.

One of the ways we can do that is to read and take to heart the words of Jesus and his disciples as they teach the meaning of unity in Christ. It is about how Christ brings us together in a way that is both uplifting and peaceful.

Let’s begin by looking at some of the ways Jesus spoke to us about unity and love in the Gospel of John.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” John 15:12-14.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, for I have overcome the world,” John 16:33.

Later, toward the end of the New Testament, we find the apostle John writing to believers. In 1 John 4:7, the apostle encourages us to “love one another, for love is of God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love, does not know God, because God is love. ... No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

Jesus and his disciples have called us to love one another, and that love brings us into unity as we come together in Christ.

1 John 1:3 tells us how such unity with Christ comes about: “That which we have seen and heard, we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

To be in unity with one another is in no way speaking of sameness, for no one is exactly the same as someone else; not in word, deed or thought. We each have our own individual personalities.

Many of us are familiar with the parts of the body as explained in Corinthians. I’d like us to look at what Paul says to us in Romans 12:4-5: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one to another.”

Just as many parts of the body work together for the good of the whole, Paul tells us that we are each individual members of Christ, but we also should be working together for the good of humankind.

There are many ways to be in unity. Hebrews 10:24-25 says “let us consider how to stir one another up to love and to do good works; not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day (referring to the day of judgment) drawing near.”

Galatians 6:2 encourages us to help one another as we are able to by “bearing one another’s burdens.”

Writing in Romans 12:16, Paul gives us pause to think about our actions in the world. He shows the importance of living “in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”

Here, he is speaking of the prideful people who go around acting as though they were better than others. Guess what? In truth, no one is any better than anyone else. God made all of us in his image. God has enacted a righteous plan for all of our lives “for a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

God, through his son, Jesus, has taught us to love one another, to be kind and patient and good. We are to “love one another with brotherly (and sisterly) affection,” to “outdo one another in showing honor for each other.” (Romans 12:10).

All through the Bible, God shows us the importance of unity. Let’s remember Psalm 133:1: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when people live in unity.”

As we live and work together in unity, read the words of Ephesians 4:3, “Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he emphasizes throughout the fourth chapter the ways of behavior for those united in Christ. Ephesians 4:29 tells us to “let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good or building up as suits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Continuing in chapter 4, verse 32, he says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

The Bible tells us that our God is the essence of love as expressed in his love for us. We are encouraged over and over to love one another as God loves us.

Colossians 3:14 reads this way: “And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

And here is one of my favorite verses from 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.”

What have we to fear when our God loves us, helps us in times of need, celebrates with us in times of joy, and shows us how to live a good and peaceful life in unity with our neighbors?

In Philippians 4:8, again we read the words of the Apostle Paul as he focuses on those things we should place our thoughts on in order to keep them healthy and open to the ways of God: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

In conclusion, we find this statement in 1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind.”

The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh is the pastor of Schenevus United Methodist Church in Schenevus, New York.

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