Family unity is fragile. Harsh words spoken in the heat of anger too easily wound and estrange individuals from their families. Unity breaks down temporarily, if not permanently. The Bible records many stories of family members in dispute, from the very serious, as in the stories of Cain and Abel or Jacob and Esau, to the minor skirmishes like those between Mary and Martha. Human differences make unity a challenge to maintain, whether unity of the family, the church, or between nations.
In our current time we have difficulty creating unity. We eagerly judge others rather than attempt to understand behavior. We objectify those who are different from us, easily dismissing them and making them the enemy. Yet, the psalmist makes it clear that God desires unity for the whole human family.
Christians who take the call to unity seriously participate in the ministry of reconciliation of which Paul speaks in Second Corinthians. Working toward unity is no easy task; it requires a learned skill set. Merely desiring reconciliation is not enough. Those who work toward unity must learn how to “listen for understanding, speak the truth in love, use their imagination to picture a better way forward, and be forgiving.”*
How would your life differ if you worked for unity by practicing these four skills? Instead of judging others, what happens inside of you when you listen for understanding? How does this way of listening change your perspective on those whom you encounter? What does speaking the truth in love mean to you? How might you practice it?
What steps toward forgiveness can you take this day? How might you imagine a future of unity in the broken places?
Genesis 45 portrays Joseph in a moment of triumph. The trials of the past are over, and his trembling brothers are now in his power. Joseph acknowledges God’s hand in the events of his life and is reconciled to those who attempted to do him harm. Psalm 133 is a brief but exuberant song to the spirit of unity and fellowship that can exist among the members of the family of God. Paul delivers a resounding “no” to the idea that God has rejected Israel. God’s election is irrevocable. The story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 illustrates the wide umbrella of God’s mercy. The woman’s faith and persistence serve in a curious way to minister to Jesus. As she becomes a means of God’s grace to Jesus, he extends God’s mercy to her.
• Read Genesis 45:1-15. What relationship in your life needs reconciliation? How will you help bring it about?
• Read Psalm 133. How healthy is your church family? Is there need for greater unity among the members?
• Read Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32. What wounds in your life have brought you a greater understanding of God’s mercy?
• Read Matthew 15:10-28. The writer says, “The work of Christians is to love others, not to change them.” Is this difficult for you?
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