Texts for the Week: Gen. 33:12–14, Ruth 1:16–18, John 17:21–26, Gal. 3:28, Eph. 2:11–22, 5:21–6:9
Memory Text: “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me’ ” (John 17:21, NKJV).
Opening Question: What can be done to enhance or improve family unity?
In the lesson today, we are invited to think about various keys, or rules, that can aid in family unity. It is good to keep in mind that the whole question of unity goes all the way back to the Trinity, the place where unity is founded. This unity should be reflected in the church and also in the family. The big question is, “How do we help this to become a reality?”
Several points can be made. The first is that, a Christian is one who has been asked, in order to receive divine help from outside for the purposes of salvation, to agree to move self out of the center of life. This is not something a human can do easily. But when a sense of the inability to save oneself sweeps over a person due to their conviction about sin, then the Spirit makes it possible. Self is disabled, moved off the throne. Autonomy is no longer prized as much as reliance on God for help and guidance, for growth toward maturity. It is only when this takes place that a real prospect of finding unity emerges. Put another way, the Bible speaks of pride as being one of the worst sins, if not the very worst, a sin that God finds particularly offensive. This is because pride prevents a person from surrendering their autonomous existence thereby creating a situation where they intend to save themselves. This cannot work at all, for no human can be good enough, no human has capacity enough to save themselves. But with self off the throne of life, humility can take over and the chance for unity emerges because unity is built on humility and gentleness.
Another way of talking about this is to talk of selfishness. Selfishness is the destroyer of unity and is, subsequently, a destroyer of family unity. It is only when the gospel has softened the hearts and moved the self away from the center of things where it demands primary place that unity can grow.
One word that often comes up when talking about unity and humility is the word “submission.” The most notable appearance of this word is Ephesians 5 where Paul is talking about the need for unity. According to v. 21, the goal and key is for believers to be humble enough they become willing to submit to each other. Paul then uses three examples of submission – husbands and wives, parents and children, and “masters and slaves.” Here we need to be very careful for it is often the case that what Paul intended gets lost in the discussion, particularly when talking about husbands and wives. The best way to describe what Paul is calling for here is the phrase, “deferential reciprocity.” Among believers, there should be a reciprocal display of humility, the willingness to defer to another. This is not a call for abject servitude as is sometimes asked for. Companionship does not seek dominance but reciprocity, unity.
It is also very important not to confuse unity and uniformity. The two are not at all the same. Unity is something that the Holy Spirit grows inside of us where we feel united, like we are working to together, like we are traveling through life together while uniformity is more like everyone being, or appearing to be, the same.
While unity is something that the Holy Spirit engenders in the human heart, it is also something that needs to be worked at in order to grow and enhance it. It is quite possible, by developing arrogant and prideful attitudes, to destroy unity. At the same time, it is quite possible, by nurturing humility and gentleness, to grow unity. True unity, which is not like uniformity at all, is something beautiful to behold. It is also something wonderful to enjoy and participate in. It comes when people walk with God realizing that Christ is the one who obtained for them salvation, something He did for each believer to no greater degree than he did for another. When the gift of salvation is fully realized and embedded in life, it is quite possible for people of all kinds and colors and ages and economic standings to live contentedly together with a profound sense of unity.
- What is the best way to get self out of the center of life?
- What concrete actions can you take to help foster unity in your home and in the community where you dwell?
- What ideas do you have about addressing those who are found trashing unity by their actions and words?
- Is unity always benefitted by people being compliant?
- What might be done to allay the messages of popular culture that suggest sexual intimacies should be available to all without restriction?
- How do people in the believing community work toward redeeming those who have fallen victim to inappropriate sexual behaviors?
- How do we uphold some of the various and useful taboos without making sex look like it is “dirty” and unseemly even for married people?