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Living in Unity
We have all heard the age-old saying, “Misery loves company.” And we have all surely experienced its truth! When the temperature is 90 degrees and humid, we commiserate with strangers at the grocery store. We have very little tolerance for the bright-eyed Pollyana’s in our lives when we’re having a bad day but will stop and talk with anyone willing to listen to our woes. And don’t even get people started talking about how this pandemic has ruined best-laid plans!
But what is the result of unifying around our misery? Usually, just more misery! While it may feel like a relief to talk with someone who has it just as bad as you, you leave the conversation stuck in your bad mood.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Think about the last time you left a conversation feeling “pleasant.” What was true about that interaction? Maybe one or more of these encouragements from the Psalmist:
1️⃣ Treat each other like family (“brothers”)
The Psalmist is speaking about people united in a family dynamic. For his context, this was the nation of Israel, an actual, flesh-and-blood family. For us today, the church is our spiritual family. Galatians 4:5–6 tells us that, when we trust Jesus to save us from our sins, God adopts us into His family and that He puts His Spirit within us as a sign of His unique relationship to us as our Father. And if we now all have the same Father, that makes us brothers and sisters!
When I watch my elementary-aged children relate to one another as sisters and brothers, I see a picture of what the church should be as a family. My children know each other so well that they can frustrate each other deeply but also laugh with and delight each other like no one else. Ultimately, when one of them is nagging another, they all suffer from the tortured child’s bad mood. But when they are joining forces to bring joy to one of their siblings, they are all filled with shared delight.
We, as the church, sometimes forget that we are a family. We feel removed from believers on the other side of the world or from believers online, and we forget that they are all our brothers and sisters. What if we felt their joys as our own, prayed for them with the loyalty of siblings, and recognized that any frustration that we cause another brother or sister in Christ is ultimately going to affect the whole family? The Psalmist says that it is pleasant when the family of God gets along with each other!
2️⃣ Commit to doing life together (“dwell”)
Families live together. And if they don’t live together under one roof, they “do life” together. Families share life in organized ways, like getting together for holidays and repeating cherished annual traditions. Families also share life in organic forms, like stopping by with flowers and a milkshake when someone is sick or calling each other from the store when a favorite brand is on sale.
The Woodside Life Group that I am part of bonds over the organized weekly rhythms of sharing a meal and fellowship on Friday nights as families and sitting together at church on Sundays (or meeting on Zoom during COVID!), as well as an additional annual rhythm of going deeper with each other in men’s and women’s Bible studies every spring. There is such comfort in knowing that this group, this spiritual family, is can be counted on for those regular times of encouragement. But our bond deepens each time we call each other organically to grab take-out after a hard day, share kids’ hand-me-down clothes and toys, and rally around a family with a new baby by providing meals and gifts.
How pleasant it will be for us in the family of God when we treat each other this way! What regular, organized rhythms within your Life Group or with the Church family bring you joy? How do you interact with your spiritual brothers and sisters organically, relying on each other and doing the small things of life for each other?
3️⃣ Uphold “unity.”
Unity always needs a source, something that binds people together. As believers in Jesus, the Gospel is our source of unity! We all share the collective experience of being dead in our sins and being made alive in Christ, forgiven, and set free. This shared reality is our starting point for working to maintain unity. Standing on the common ground of forgiveness should influence the way that we talk to each other with grace, seek to see from another’s perspective with humility, and forgive each other with the same measure that God has forgiven us.
During the Stay Home order this spring, our Life Group met weekly on Zoom to study the Bible together. Yes, we commiserated with one another about the difficult circumstances we all faced, and it was good to know that we could relate to each other. However, helping each other turn our eyes to Jesus gave us the pleasant refreshment we needed so desperately. The Psalmist knew a timeless truth: it is good and pleasant for the family of God to do life together in unity!