Paul exhorts us, ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. ‘ (Ephesians 4:3 NIV) That exhortation reminds me of my youth (hippie days) where we, the teens of the church, would pull out candles, pass them around the church while singing “We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord…” Very moving times, one which seemed to bring the church together in love. It was a nice picture. We were making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. But singing songs around the altar of the church is not what Paul is talking about.
In a church not far from Ephesus, Colossae, Paul also exhorts the Church to be in perfect unity. There he also talks about peace but he also adds in some other virtues, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Above all, he says, “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:14) All these virtues, especially love for one another (see also 1 Corinthians 13), lead to peace which is the bond that keeps us unified. Paul reminds the Ephesians that Christ “himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one” speaking of the once big divide of Jews verses Gentiles. If those two groups can be brought together in peace, we can live together as well.
It takes a lot of effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Paul says “the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace”. To make the effort to keep the unity of the Spirit we have to set our minds on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8:5-6). We have to actively love one another. We have to actively have compassion, patience, forgiveness, and peace. Maybe lighting candles and singing “We are one in the Spirit, We are One in the Lord…” is a good step but we have a lot more to do.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. -Colossians 3:12-14 NIV