There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus ( Galatians 3:28).

St. Paul Church family is not a homogenous group that ‘looks’ alike. We are a diverse parish across age, education, gender, colour, size and the like.

As one sits in international airports one sees the great diversity in the human race as people of all races, colours and creeds come and go.

The physical world witnesses to diversity in God’s creation. There are stars, planets, moons, animals of various kinds, mountains, hills and valleys.

We cannot fully understand the Holy Trinity but it gives us the perfect picture of unity among diversity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three diverse people but they live in a spirit of unity.

Yahweh is a God of diversity.

Psalm 133 speaks highly of the virtues of unity:

Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is : brethren, to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down unto the beard : even unto Aaron's beard, and went down to the skirts of his clothing.

St. Paul gives the purpose for unity:

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15: 5-6).

Unity in the church demonstrates our commitment to serving God faithfully. When church members live in unity they mirror the unity that is present among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Trinity.

Unfortunately, we do not always exhibit unity in the church. At times there are squabbles, fractions and disagreements among church members. This disunity hinders the work of the church and compromises its mission and witness. It is not uncommon to hear non-church members speak negatively about the church when its disunity is made public. Disunity in the church might be one of the reasons for some people not becoming members of the church.

Unity does not mean we are all the same. Although we come from different social and economic backgrounds we can still experience unity as we come together to work for the common good of our church and community.

Unity does not mean that we will all agree on the same things. It does not mean uniformity, it is not always homogenous. The members of the early church did not find common agreement on all matters and so it was necessary for the church to call a general council to resolve the issue as it related to criteria for membership in the church (Acts 15).

In the church and community there will be always be differences of opinion and thought. This is unavoidable but it is also healthy for community life. Our challenge is to love each other while accepting difference. Difference cannot be used as an excuse for refusing to act neighbourly.

In this regard we must give heed to St. Paul’s advice to the Romans:

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."  Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8-10).

We should not dwell on our differences, we must accentuate what we have in common. The differences will take care of themselves if we love one another.

The following are necessary if we are to experience unity in the church and community: humility, tolerance, forgiveness, patience, love and acceptance of difference. The author of the Letters to the Ephesians and Colossians write:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience,  forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12-14)

Unity is not something that happens by chance. The quest for unity must be intentional. Living in unity means acceptance of one another. It calls for trust and respect. We must be willing to share all our resources with each other. We must reject prejudice and discrimination of any kind. We must avoid favourtism and partiality in our business and social relationships. We must have the courage and the will to cross all racial, social, religious, economic and political barriers that separate and divide us. It means loving each person as Christ loves and accepts us (John 13:34-35).

The importance of unity for the church’s mission and nation building can never be overemphasised. Unless we share common goals amidst our differences, success will always be a dream which does not come to fruition.

Unity will be crucial for our stewardship ministry which will guide our mission in 2011. If we are to achieve our goals and be found faithful, it will necessary for all members of St. Paul to unite as one. We might not like all the programmes to be undertaken and we might not be keen on the persons who lead them. Nevertheless, we must have a commitment to the parish’s ministry as we seek to live out the parish’s mission “to  share God's reconciling love, making disciples of all people through, worship, teaching, education, ministry to the local community and unchurched and through personal witness in our daily lives.”

At this junction in our national history the need for unity is critical as we grapple with the many social, economic and moral problems that confront our nation. As we celebrate our 44th anniversary of independence we must seek to be united as we face challenging times.

We must not allow our many differences to become stumbling blocks in the way to progress. “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Why  is it so hard for us to be comfortable around people who are different from us?

What  are some of the blessings we receive from God when we are  united in fellowship?

How can our love for one another  be shown in spite of our differences?

What does unity require from each individual?

What are some of the ‘things’ that divide our society? How can we solve them? 

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