I have many strong passions and opinions. They may focus my life and ministry, but they should never become the limiting topic of my personal connection and conversation with God. If I center my life with God on my most important issues instead of on Christ himself, then I will eventually begin to uphold agreement with my personal passions and opinions as the test for unity with other believers.
Let Christ be our connection, and let all our passions and opinions be servants instead of masters. Instead of demanding that we unite by agreement with one another on issues, perspectives, truths, or doctrines, let Christ be our bond.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But (varied, manifold, differing, diverse, many-colored; 1 Pet. 4:10) grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV, notes in parenthesis added)
We are called to maintain unity of the Spirit, not unity of the peripheral things that we hold to be most important. In fact, if maintaining the unity of the Spirit is not more important than our individual passions and opinions, then our priorities are out of order.
Therefore, I’ve come to the conclusion that there will only be real unity among those who go beyond surrendering their lives to Christ one time in a prayer of salvation. We must surrender our passions and opinions also. We must live in an ongoing surrender of our “everything” to God unto death, to remain a clear conduit of the bond of peace that should be flowing through our lives to one another.
The Inevitable Questions
Does that mean we should not stand for what we believe? Does it mean we should pretend disagreements or disputes do not exist? Does it mean that we should never address issues or the people who create them? No! The same Paul who wrote this passage also commanded us elsewhere to avoid certain people (2 Tim. 3:1-9; 1 Cor. 5:9-13), and to settle our disputes and grievances among ourselves (1 Cor. 6:1-8). Jesus also gave clear instructions to confront believers who sin against us and how to handle those who will not hear it or receive it (Matt 18:15-20).
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7 ESV), but love is also not naive or stupid, avoiding conflicts, or permitting mistreatment. “Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13:8 ESV), but godly tolerance has limits and godly wisdom recognizes boundaries that guard your own heart and allow you to maintain a healthy connection with the body of Christ.
Unity Does Not Come From Conformity
If we are different parts of the same Body, the chin is going to have a vastly different view of things than the heel does, even if they have some similarities. And each is going to have certain things that they are more passionate about in their day-to-day life because of their grace, experience, and place in the Body. So, we should value the fact that we’re different, with differing grace and varied perspectives, knowing we are one in Christ our Head.
So unity does not come from conformity, because conformity places a demand on people to be someone other than who God graced them to be. Valuing the diversity in the Body, we must allow one another to mature together, but in our own way as we each navigate our own walk with God and work out our own salvation (Phi. 2:12).
Love Does Not Demand Conformity
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35 (ESV)
…(Love) does not insist on its own way… 1 Cor. 13:5 (ESV)
Why is it so easy, once we have surrendered our lives, to refuse to surrender our passions and opinions for the higher call of love and allow for unity of the Spirit among ourselves? We have all been guilty of it, but will we allow it to be our continued behavior? Why do we allow our passions and opinions to dictate who we extend love, acceptance, or connection to within the body of Christ?
I understand how refreshing and very necessary it is to find those who are like-minded, to find where we fit in and can thrive. But what if that were just one point of relational connection to one part of the one body of Christ instead a definition of conformity and the limits of acceptable connection?
Any time we filter our love or define our unity with others by requiring conformity to our own desires, passions, or ideals, regardless of how noble they may be, we push some away while connecting with others. But that type of connection is superficial and shifting because it is actively based on our “selves.”
Love does not demand conformity, and conformity does not lead to real unity. True love allows for diversity. And real unity values connection by the same Spirit, who releases to us many expressions of the same grace through surrender to the same Father, thanks to Christ our Head.
Jeremy Caris is the founder and president of Caris Ministries. Since he is called as a prophet and gifted as a teacher, much of his focus involves equipping believers to hear, know, and follow God in their own daily experience. He teaches the foundational truth of the Word with simple clarity, while revealing deep things of the spirit in practical ways. He has the unique ability to demystify the supernatural side of real relationship with a living God and make it an embraceable and accessible reality for all believers. Jeremy has been married to his best friend, Mandy Caris, for seventeen years, and is the proud father of two boys.