The word unity is found only three times in only two books of Scripture. David wrote ,“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps. 133:1). As much as it is good for brethren to be one, God provided those things necessary that brethren might “come in the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:13) and by His inspired apostles both admonished and instructed how we might maintain unity: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3). Let us briefly note these four attitudes we must possess for peaceful unity to exist among us.
First, we must have an attitude of lowliness. The word translated lowliness is from a Greek term that carries the sense of “having a humble opinion of oneself; a deep sense of one’s littleness” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament) and is translated as “humbleness of mind” in Colossians 3:12. Lowliness is the opposite of pride: “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit” (Pro. 29:23) Paul demonstrated this when he admonished the Philippians “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory [a vain opinion of self]; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). Furthermore, this was Paul’s practice as he labored among the Ephesians: “Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind” (Acts 20:18-19). Paul both instructed and practiced lowliness among brethren. How great the peace and unity in the church if we all cast off lofty attitudes of self and maintain the attitude of lowliness!
Second, brethren must adopt the attitude of meekness. While lowliness has to do with a correct attitude of self, meekness addresses our attitude toward others, especially those who are injurious and seek our hurt. The meek man is mild and gentle. The meek man does not react harshly or with a mean spirit. The meek man is not a coward though he does not react suddenly with anger. Neither does he harbor vengeance against his antagonist. Meekness, therefore, assumes a new heart, i.e., a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). No man of the world would ever assume a disposition of gentleness toward others who might openly oppose them or even actively seek their hurt. Paul addressed the Corinthians “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1) and admonished the Galatians to seek the restoration of the wayward “in the spirit of meekness” (Gal. 6:1). How great the unity and peace among brethren if we all exhibited the attitude of meekness toward one another!
Third, brethren must possess the attitude of longsuffering. One who is longsuffering truly possesses his emotions and exhibits self-control. Thayer notes that longsuffering “is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong” and is “opposed to wrath or revenge.” Where meekness is one’s attitude inwardly toward those who might mistreat them, longsuffering is more of maintaining outward actions. Solomon wrote: “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife” (Pro. 15:18). How beautiful the state of the church and how rare occasions of strife would be if Christians would only be longsuffering with brethren.
Finally, there is the attitude of forbearing one another in love. It should be noted that our forbearance is connected to love, and it should be emphasized that we are to forbear one another. One has noted that in the Christian life, we are “helping one another to sustain – helping to support each other in all the miseries and trials of life.” Forbearance involves bearing with one another’s weaknesses and not ceasing to love because of faults. It is a “tolerance without which no group of human beings can live together in peace.” Speaking of the state in which the apostles often found themselves, Paul wrote, “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it” (1 Cor. 4:11-12). Truly it is only the love for the souls of our brethren that would cause one to forbear or “bear-under” the weaknesses and infirmities of one another. How desperately the church needs brethren who will forbear one another in love.
What is your attitude toward your brethren? Are you striving to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace with an attitude of lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, and forbearance toward your brethren?