My aim in writing this post is to point you in the right direction on unity. Most often the discussion on unity is centered on how a group of people are not unified and how they should be. The problem with this kind of discussion is that it tends to lead the group to become even more fractured as those discussing the issue of unity become frustrated with the behaviors of others (all the while missing thier own missbehavior along the way). Supporting the following seven steps is one underlying principle: We find unity in common purpose. For the Christian and hence the church (youth group, etc.) unity is found in Glorifying God through Jesus Christ.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!– assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:15-32 ESV)
Step One: Speak the Truth (In Love)
In Ephesians 4:15 and again in verse 25 we are told to “Speak the Truth.” Truth speaking should always come from a heart of love and a desire to grow and see others grow in the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4:15). We are not to be deceptive. We are not to lie, manipulate or pretend in front of others about what is going on in our lives. Speaking the truth about our selves makes us vulnerable and accountable for the sake of the larger vision (seeing more of Jesus in our lives). Speaking the truth to others shows genuine concern and accountability.
Step Two: Be Angry, but don’t sin
People are not perfect and the truth is that sometimes you will get angry with others. Anger is a natural emotion. However, many people use anger as an excuse to sin against others. They justify small and petty acts of retalliation like gossiping about someone, being mean or hostile to people, or defriending them. However, these expressons of anger rarely solve the problem, they usually create more problems like bitterness, division, and hatred. A better expression of anger is to address the issue that has stired the anger (in an non-sinful way).
We are told to not to let anger go beyond a day (Ephesians 4:26). Letting anger grow and fester becomes a foothold for the devil to create more issues in our life and keep us side tracked from the greater vision of Glorifying God. If you find yourself handeling your anger in the wrong way you need to repent and ask God for healthier ways to evaluate and express your anger. Don’t let anger cause you to lose focus.
Step Three: Be Generous…Work to Share with Others
Ephesians 4:28 reminds us that we are not to steal, but rather work hard so we will have something to share with everyone else. Too often people come looking for what they can get, rather than what they can give. In nature parasites are identified as creatures that take from thier host, but never offer anything in return. If we all come to the group as parasites looking for what we can get, but never offering to others we have missed the point of growing in Christ likeness. We are to work hard to so we have something to offer everyone else who is there. You will find the more you serve and meet the needs of others, the more your needs are met.
Step Four: Watch what you Say
Paul says in Ephesians 4:29-30 that we should guard out mouths. You do not glorify God by using your words to teardown, belittle, and destroy the efforts of others. You grieve the Holy Spirit of God when your words are designed to tear down. You may have a different preference than others on certain side issues, but you do not have to verbally assault everyone who holds a different opinion than you. When you talk about or too your group it should be to build it up, not to tear it down. (By the way, this includes talking about all those people who are “in the way” of your group being unified).
Step Five: Put Away Bitterness
Bitterness is a disease that is rampant in our churches and congregations today. Bitterness happens when you disagree with someone (rightly or wrongly) and you hold a grudge. The grudge grows and festers to effect the way you see that person. What started out as a small dissagreement between two people is all the sudden blown up into a larger scale drama where the person you are holding a grudge against can’t do anything right (in your eyes). Bitterness causes us to lose focus on Glorifying God and growing in Christlikeness and focus on small and petty disputes.
Step Six: Be Kind
The goal of a group is to work to gether to glorify God. Kindness goes a long way in helping others to feel accepted, invited, and part of the project. Kindness can disarm the wepons of the enemy. Deal with others kindly (they way you would want to be treated). When you deal withpeople who are not on task with the goals or mission of the group treat them kindly.
Step Seven: Forgive
This is probably the hardest step to take. If you have been wronged it can be difficult to forgive a person for what they have done. I’ve written more on forgiveness here.