The United States of America. Being so far removed from the founding generation of this country makes it difficult to truly appreciate the word united in the title of our nation. Prior to the revolutionary war the states could be more likened to independent nations. A man living in America at the time referring to his fellow countryman would likely be referring to his fellow Virginian or his fellow Pennsylvanian. Rarely would a man refer to their fellow American- it was a foreign thought.
But as British oppression increased many saw a need for the states to unite. In order to effectively stand against the greatest empire in the world the states would need to stand together. The process to arrive at this unity was a long and arduous task. Many hours were spent in debate before the states united. Differences had to be put aside. A course of action had to be agreed upon. Risks had to be justified. Questions had to be answered. Eventually, the states put aside their differences and together fought a war for independence.
Christian unity is a popular theme among today’s Christians and there is good reason for that: God calls Christians to unite many times in the New Testament. To name just a few: In 1 Peter 3:8 we are instructed to be of one mind. 1 Corinthians 1:10 instructs us not to have divisions amongst ourselves. Paul beseeches us in Ephesians 4:1-4 to, “…walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
We know as Christians that God would have us be united. How do we unite as Christians? Considering the passage quoted from Ephesians it is apparent that unity will require us to be humble, patient, loving and persistent. From a logical standpoint, it is easy to see why these characteristics would be required for a people to unite in any cause. Unity requires us to acknowledge our faults and mistakes at times. It requires us to carefully consider our actions and words before we act or speak. It requires that we tolerate our personality differences. And it requires our constant attention. These tasks alone are all difficult but Christian unity requires even more than simply getting along with one another.
In John 17:21 Jesus prayed, “…that they may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in you; that they may be one in Us…” True unity with one another requires that we are unified with God. And here we are provided with the perfect example of unity with God- Jesus. The book of John provides a clear picture of Jesus’ unity with the Father. The theme of Jesus’ unity with God begins in the first few verses of the book and continues throughout.
“In the beginning was the Word [Jesus John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh” implying Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:1-3
This passage explains that Jesus had some part in the creation. The passage does not give any more information on how He was involved- just that He was there and all things were made “through” Him. What we do know about the creation is that God created through spoken word. In Genesis 1:3 it reads, “Then God said “Let there be light”; and there was light.” God gave a command and it was fulfilled. If this was accomplished through Jesus, as it says in John 1:1-3, it may be that Jesus was carrying out His command. God had a plan for the creation and Jesus did His part, whatever that may have been, in fulfilling God’s plan.
Continuing on in the book of John…“Most assuredly I say to you the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do, for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19. We find here that Jesus, during His life, only did the things that God showed Him to do. Jesus says here that He did not work independently of the Father.
Jesus’ unity with the Father continues to be demonstrated time and again in John. 6:38- “For I have come down from Heaven not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” 7:16-“My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” 8:26- “I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.”
All of these passages demonstrate the unity that exists between Jesus and God. The common theme throughout these verses is that Jesus was continually doing the will of God. From the creation of the world through His ministry Jesus was continually doing what God had instructed him to do. This is the unity with God that He exemplifies for us. To be united with the Father, and thus with one another (John 17:21), we need to do His will.
The example of our country unifying to fight the revolutionary war is a great example of unity. The people involved in some cases had to humble themselves; they had to be patient; they had to be persistent. Eventually they were able to put aside their differences and unite under one cause. But we have to remember that examples like this fall short of the unity that God expects of us. We cannot merely put aside our differences to unite as Christians under God. We have to follow Jesus’ example of doing the will of God to be truly united.