Unity and Peace: Does My Effort Matter?
This post is written by Jack Gross, a recent graduate of our Advanced Leadership Training program.
Have you heard of the traditional “seven deadly sins?” It’s likely you have, but have you heard of the seven so-called “heavenly virtues?” They are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. Each virtue corresponds to one of the deadly sins. For example, temperance is the virtue of restraint, the practice of self-control. It’s the traditional counterpart to gluttony, which is feeding one’s desires to excess and feeling no need to press the “off” button. The Bible is replete with exhortations to turn from sin and live with virtue; in fact, it speaks of far more than just seven sins and seven virtues.
In Ephesians 4:1–3, Paul exhorts the church by grouping some virtues together:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
This sounds like quite a to-do list: be humble rather than proud. Be gentle and kind rather than envious and spiteful. Be patient rather than instant with the whip, otherwise known as the human tongue. Be loving in your relationships, even if it comes to laying down your own life, because our Master laid His life down for all of us (1 John 3:16). But there’s another virtue in verse 3, one of the heavenly virtues that makes healthy disciple-making relationships possible. It’s kind of hidden in English, but reads “make every effort” as “be diligent,” and there it is.
Realizing that Peaceful Relationships Don’t “Just Happen”
Living in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ sounds great, doesn’t it? Who wants to live in consternation? Give me peace, please. In the Church, it seems unity and peace ought to flow like the wide Mississippi in the spring. But, in reality, unity’s flow can slow to a trickle, restricted by muddy logjams of misunderstanding, suspicion, and ignorance of others’ feelings. It takes work for we believers to keep one another’s needs and desires in mind because our own desires tend to loom large in our thoughts. It takes effort to seek out a brother in order to listen and converse, and sometimes it’s necessary to first clear away the mud in our own heart so we can respond to the cry of our brother’s heart (Matthew 7:3–5).
Being Diligent to Pursue Peace
God’s will for believers is not for them just to be theoretically virtuous like a Knight Templar getting tapped on the shoulder by the royal sword; calling someone a Knight does not confer the skills of a warrior. Virtues as qualities are no passive things; they are active things! There is no being virtuous without concomitant actions.
Diligence is the virtue that enables us to pursue the other virtues when the going gets tough (and it always gets tough). Diligence for peace is indispensable for disciple makers because interpersonal peace is necessary for God’s Word to bear fruit in the lives of those we lead. Nothing crushes the growth of the Gospel more than backbiting, gossip, judgmentalism, and other assertions of one person’s pride over another. It’s not our natural inclination to behave toward one another with love and forgiveness, and to make matters even more challenging, the Devil tries to drive wedges between us. It takes care to be led by the Holy Spirit and it takes diligence to abide in peace and unity with others. Diligence is the answer to this dilemma.
Moving Diligently Toward Others
Humility, patience, and gentleness come from God, and eagerness to please Him should drive us to our knees in prayer regarding every matter, especially when it comes to our relationships with others (and more so with our brothers and sisters in Christ). Differences, disagreements, and divisions between believers are bound to pop up, but when they do, keep peace and unity flowing by shortening the distance between the poles.
Your effort matters here. The world is watching to see if Christians are walking the talk, so refuse the Devil any foothold (Ephesians 4:27). Run into the arms of Jesus by running into the arms of one another, even those with whom you vehemently disagree, and thereby allow no distance to separate us. Go ahead and wrap your arms around each other. You’ll shock the world, disappoint the Devil, and glorify God. Who can resist a hug like that? And how could such an embrace not pave the way for those experiencing it and watching it to move closer to Jesus?
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