Developing unity with others is essential for the success and health of any family, business, church or organization. We cannot walk together in a common vision or purpose without some measure of agreement and unity. Unity is not automatic; it is something to work toward in our relationships. In Ephesians 4:3, Paul told the people “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Paul was encouraging them to “make every effort” to have unity.
To achieve unity, we must recognize that it is the responsibility of every person involved and must be earnestly pursued. Can you imagine a basketball team trying to win a game with every player on the court wanting to run their own plays? It’s a ludicrous thought, yet so often this essential ingredient of success is missing in our interaction with others. Here are some practical steps that can be taken to develop unity.
Practical Steps for Developing Unity
The first step is to communicate with everyone involved that each one has a responsibility to achieve unity. James confirms this principle: “you can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” (James 3:18 Msg) Building real relationships takes commitment, hard work, and treating others with respect and honor–but it’s worth it.
Focus on Common Ground, Honor Differences
Another step is to focus on what we have in common, not our differences. God has given us each different personalities, giftings, backgrounds, races, and preferences. Learn to value and enjoy the differences, not merely tolerate them. God wants unity, not uniformity! When we focus on personalities, preferences, interpretations, styles or methods – division always happens. Choose to encourage others in their abilities and giftings, rather than criticize their weak areas or differences.
Thirdly, be realistic in your expectations of relationships with others. Have you noticed that there is a gap between the “ideal” and “real”? It’s easy to become discouraged and to find fault and criticize others. Society and the church are made up of imperfect people, and you will be let down and disappointed at some point with others. If we have unreal expectations of others, we are creating a scenario where they will fail to meet our expectations and become disappointed or offended with them.
The fourth step is to refuse to listen to gossip. If you are not part of the problem or part of the solution, then you don’t need to listen to complaints and criticism about others. When someone begins to gossip to you, simply ask them “Please stop, I don’t need to know this. Have you talked directly to that person?” The best way to stop gossip is to lovingly confront those who are gossiping and insist they stop it.
Next, practice God’s method for conflict resolution. In Matthew 18, Jesus told us that we are to go to the one who has hurt us and discuss the problem. During a conflict, it’s tempting to go to a third party rather than to courageously speak the truth in love to the one you are upset with. This is an essential step in developing unity. Avoiding conflict does not resolve disagreements, only in discussing the issues in a healthy manner with those involved.
A sixth step is to realize that no leader, whether secular or in the church, is perfect. Recognize that God places people in places of leadership and authority, even in their imperfections, to enable organizations to achieve their objectives. If it’s the family, the objective is to raise healthly, Godly children that will make a difference in this world. If it’s a business, to produce a product or provide a service that will make profits. If it’s the church, to build the lives of the congregants and minister to the needs of the community, region and nations with the love and power of Jesus Christ.
Remember the acronym T.E.A.M. defined is “Together Everyone Accomplishes More!” When we become one in heart and spirit, we together accomplish more and have the blessing of real relationships with others.