Few boxing rivalries are as legendary as the one between Joe Louis, an African-American boxer, and Max Schmeling, a German fighter who was a favorite of Hitler’s (although Schmeling personally had no love for the Nazi regime). The two men were promoted as bitter rivals, but the truth is that the two later became close friends. Schmeling even helped pay for Louis’ funeral in 1981. Very different from one another, they shared a friendship that went beyond the bounds of sameness.
In our world, we often imagine that it’s sameness that lies at the foundation of friendship and unity. But when Paul describes true unity in Jesus in Ephesians 4, he includes a list of very diverse roles that people are called to fulfill as part of the body of Christ: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Clearly, Paul didn’t believe that unity requires that everyone should be the same.
Instead, the apostle connects unity in Jesus to a far deeper source than outward sameness: We’re to be unified both because of who God is and because of what He’s done. We have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, [and] one God” who is over all (Ephesians 4:4-6). In this way, unity isn’t based on something as superficial as how similar we are to one another. Instead, it’s far more profound, a reflection of God’s character and all He’s done for us in and through His Son Jesus.
This is a far better blueprint for true unity. We don’t seek unity because we’re the same. We seek unity as a reflection of God’s own character, and because His work has carefully forged together one body of Christ. As Paul wrote, “You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family” (Ephesians 2:19).
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: John 14:1-14
Read John 17:20-21 and see another example of the deep theological character of unity—that it’s a reflection of the relationship Jesus shares with the heavenly Father.
How would you define unity in Jesus? Why do you think it’s so important to Him?