Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Ephesians 4:1-16 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Recently, a video produced by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has gone viral on Facebook and Twitter. (If you haven’t yet watched this video, jump down to the “Research” section and click the link.) The video is one of a diverse group of individuals speaking one by one and often repeating various words; one of the most common words is unity.
The video focuses specifically on the issue of women’s ordination in our church and how as a church family we have voted “no” to ordaining women and “no” to letting individual divisions decide for themselves. The individuals in this video point out that “some of us” are having a hard time with this decision, but because we decided as a family, and for the sake of unity, it’s time to get back in line with what has been decided at what they see as the highest level of authority on earth: the General Conference in Session.
Regardless of where you stand on this video, it raises an interesting question: What is unity? As we go through these verses in Ephesians, we are confronted with the concept of unity:
I [Paul] urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
We know from studying the book of Romans this year that Paul is notorious for asking questions and then subsequently giving the answer immediately. I know that Paul might not be asking a direct question when it comes to unity, but he is almost intuitively reading his audience and sees that a definition of what it means to be unified is something the Ephesians (and we) are searching for. He continues on:
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-7)
Our unity is about being as one, not as many ones that look alike. Many times in his writings, Paul describes the church as being a body with Jesus as the head. He talks about the bickering that happens when different parts of the body are jealous of what others are or are too concerned with how a certain part should function.
If we are breaking our definition of unity down to the minority getting in line with the majority, we as a church will eventually break down. We cannot teach our young generations that unity is about winning and having everyone else join your team. Unity is about being one big team working together—not against one another. Unity is about doing the best you can as your part of the body and listening to the head—to the brain—which is Jesus. The mind tells the hand to move. The foot doesn’t tell the hand to move. When we get in line with Jesus and do what He is calling us to, we become unified with the other parts of the body.
Recalibrate: God calls us all to be a part of a unified body with Christ as the head. We all have individual strengths and gifts. What do you believe Jesus is calling you to do?
Respond: Let Ephesians 4:3 be your prayer today: “God, make me eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”
Research: Watch the video on Unity produced by the General Conference.
Remember: “Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the head” (Ephesians 4:15 , CEV).
Jessyka Dooley is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church, leading Live Wonder (ages 0-3), Live Adventure (ages 4-11), and Live Purpose (ages 12-17), along with their supporting ministries. She grew up in Washington State and has a degree in theology from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. Jessyka has served in various areas of ministry, but her passion for discipling kids has taken center stage in her career.
Using a mirror so your little one can see their face, point out their eyes and ears and nose and mouth. See if they can point out their own features to you. Hold up things to smell like flowers or food. Talk about how our eyes can see the flowers or the food, and our nose can smell it, and our tongue can taste it. All our senses work together so we can experience the wonderful world that God created for us.
Are you good at doing jigsaw puzzles? Do you have a plan of attack? Do you sort out all the edges and corners or do you put them into groups of similar colors? I like to make sure that I have all the pieces before I start because there is nothing worse than getting to the end and finding out that you are missing a piece. Paul tells us in Verse 3 to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Each little piece of the puzzle is part of the picture. If you leave a piece out, the picture is incomplete. Build a jigsaw puzzle with your family today. While you’re busy putting the picture together, think about how each little piece makes the picture clearer. Think about how what you say and what you do gives a picture of who you are.
Have you heard of the concept “opposites attract”? This phrase could not be more applicable to my parents. My mom is a social butterfly. To give you an illustration of how social she is, when she saw Mama Mia 2 in the theater she wore a sparkly ’70s jumpsuit. There were little girls asking to take a picture with her! My dad, on the other hand, hates crowds. He doesn’t like big social events and his musical palette is strictly limited to smooth jazz and classical (occasionally he will dabble in the Heritage Singers). Yet despite their differences, they have had a beautiful marriage because they are committed to each other. Of course they have their disagreements, but at the end of the day their love for each other is stronger than any argument. My mom hasn’t changed to become quieter for my dad, and my dad hasn’t all of a sudden become the life of the party to be like my mom. Their differences have made their marriage beautiful and our family well rounded. The same is true for church. God wants us to have unity but not to have uniformity. But more importantly, Paul urges the church to be united in the Spirit alone. What are some ways that we can practice being unified in the Spirit? What does church community mean to you, and how can we celebrate our differences?