Paul is asking his readers to live together in the unity of the Spirit, to be a fellowship of believers who love, support, encourage and help one another.
Author, speaker and church planter John White (1924-2002) says, ‘It is not possible to exaggerate the importance of your fellowship with you fellow Christians. You need their love. You need their discipline. They need yours.’
White cites the prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-23, in which Jesus prayed specifically for the unity of his followers. Jesus’ reason? ‘That the world may believe’ (John 17:21). White continues:
“For the church was to be left on earth for that purpose; that the world might believe. Power in testimony is evidently not something that the church can possess as a sort of separate package; it cannot exist alone. The church that convinces men that there is a God in heaven is a church that manifests what only a heavenly God can do, that is to unite human beings in heavenly love. Wherever the sign of loving unity exists, the world will be convinced.”
The greatest need of our time is the call simply to be the church, to love one another, and to offer our lives for the sake of the world. The community of faith offers a visible and concrete alternative, and issues a basic challenge to the world as it is.
Each Christian has it in his or her own power to be a steward and promoter of unity. White says:
“You can begin in your own life to be an answer to the high priestly prayer of Christ. You can become a small focus of change. If you are willing to be a channel of unity, you will find the power of heaven on your side. Not only will you experience pains and joys of an order you had not dreamed possible, but you will become the scent of life.”