Monday, September 12, 2016

One Another - UNITY I

Among the “one another” statements in the Bible, several speak to the theme of unity.

Unity is important in a church congregation, but between spouses it is vital for a marriage to be healthy. In Genesis 2:24 it says “A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Word says “they become” but in reality, it takes work from both husband and wife to maintain a constant state of “becoming.” It is a lifelong commitment, not a one-time event.

This idea of one flesh is confusing; spouses are still two separate people, with their own thoughts, feelings, tendencies, quirks and personalities. How then do we live out the oneness that God states is the nature of marriage? Romans 15:6, 2 Corinthians 13:11 and Phillipians 2:2 all use the phrase “of one mind.” This is of course not suggesting that two people will think exactly the same. What it is suggesting though is for people - for our purpose, spouses - to put their heads together. Communication is key, especially in times of crisis or important decisions. Husband and wife must discuss priorities, goals, and values. Each spouse must bare their soul (Phil 2:2 also says “one in spirit”) to the other sharing their dreams and desires, and in the spirit of unity come to consensus. This is easier when additional “one another” commands are adhered to, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:15: “strive to do what is good for each other” or Romans 12:9 “Honor one another above yourself.” 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not self serving or proud, and it is when both spouses are thinking not of themselves but of their partner, of their union, that oneness is strived for and achieved

Too often spouses try to “win” against each other. In marriage, if one spouse wins, both lose. Husband and wife must approach all obstacles as a team, not as adversaries. James writes “Don’t complain against one another” (4:11) and “Don’t grumble amongst one another” (6:43) and Paul implores the Galatians “Don’t challenge or envy one another” (5:26) and more dramatically “ Don’t bite, devour or consume one another (5:15) All these verses come from the same place, advocating for the idea that we are in this TOGETHER. As spouses it our imperative that we act like it. As Lincoln said, “A house divided cannot stand.”

Instead of fighting, embrace each other. Be each other’s greatest fan, biggest supporter and staunchest ally. As Jesus says to his disciples in Mark 9:50

Be at peace with one another

It makes facing obstacles much easier when you are locked arm in arm, moving forward together.

One Another - UNITY II

Now that we are focused on being of one mind, concentrating on being on the same time, working on living out the edict that husband and wife are one flesh, scripture give us practical steps we can take to help accomplish those goals.

Paul tells the Ephesians (4:2) “Gently and patiently tolerate one another.”

That doesn’t sound very romantic; “tolerate” seems a pretty low bar to hurdle in the context of marriage. One of its definitions though is “accept,” and that is key. Romans 15:7 says explicitly “Accept one another.” Too often we expect the other person to change when things aren’t going smoothly. There is an old adage “Women enter marriage expecting their husband to change, and they don’t. Men enter marriage expecting their wife to stay the same… and they don’t.” It is critical that we accept the person our spouse IS at any given point in time. We can’t pine for who they were, and yearn for who they could be. Our job is not to change them, mold them or shape them, but to encourage them and love them. When a person is set on changing another, disappointment is almost guaranteed. The vows we took were not stated with conditions; they were absolutes. We promised to love, to keep, to cherish. When acceptance is the goal, peace is much more often the outcome. As for the rest of this verse, gentleness and patience are both fruits of the spirit, and are qualities to be sought as we deal with all people. How much more so should we seek them when dealing with the person we have chosen to go through life with?

Gentleness and patience are important since none of us are perfect. We are all finite and fallible. James 3:2 says “we all stumble in many ways” and Paul in Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Knowing that we are just as guilty, just as imperfect, we are called to show the grace that we know we receive from on high. Colossians 3:13 says “Bear with and forgive one another.” and Ephesians 4:32 implores “Be kind, tender-hearted and forgiving.” Knowing we are in this together, we must strive to minimize the strife that can divide us and weaken us, sap our strength and lead to selfishness, distance, and sin. In the midst of conflict, “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1)

Even when our partners falter, we are called to be like Christ. The natural human reaction is to seek retribution, to punish the one at fault but again, that is not our job. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 says we are “not to repay evil with evil” but instead we should “seek good for one another.” This is not easy when we are hurting, but if we can look beyond the behavior we may see the other person is hurting too. Or scared, stressed or anxious. We must focus on forgiveness, on healing, on wholeness.

On unity.