As churches begin to mobilize for re-entry after COVID-19, we as Small Group Point People should consider how we can promote unity throughout our small group ministries. Most of us are familiar with the 59 or so “one-another’s” recorded in the Bible. They are commands for us as believers to grow in community with one another. We cannot live out these one another’s and grow in our Christian walk if we are not spending time with each other. This is one of the reasons why small groups are so important and where the rubber meets the road with the one-another’s in the Bible.
UNITY AS ONE-ANOTHER’S!
People living in unity is powerful and beautiful! Love is the bond of unity and shows the world that we are God’s children. Unity doesn’t mean uniformity. It means people with differing personalities and abilities coming together as one. Biblical unity requires walking in the Spirit and following the one-another’s found in the Bible. There are 4 one-another’s that can produce and maintain unity in our small groups.
1. LOVE ONE ANOTHER
First, we must begin with loving one another (John 13:34; Romans 13:8). Love is the basis or foundation of the one-another relationships. God is love! Jesus showed His love through His sacrifice on the cross. 1 Corinthians 13 outlines what this love looks like and how God’s love in Christ can flow through us to others. God’s love is selfless, so when we love others it is done without expecting anything in return. Small groups are a great place to live out loving others with God’s love, especially those who are harder to love. In a small group setting, we have an opportunity to get to know others more intimately and show them love even when we know their struggles and hang-ups; just like how God loves us despite our flaws.
2. BEAR WITH ONE ANOTHER:
We also need to bear with one another (Colossians 3:13; Mark 9:50). When I was in the Air Force, I had to live with total strangers for 8 weeks in basic training. We all came from different places, with different backgrounds and needed to learn to bear with one another’s quirks and differences so we could work together. To bear with, or forbear, is another word for ‘put up with’. There are some people in our small group that we just need to learn to bear with because of differing personalities. Another way to think about it is that we need to learn to patiently and lovingly live peacefully with those that we might be easily annoyed with. It requires a compassionate, humble and patient heart from the Lord to practice forbearance with one another. We need God’s Grace! God values His children and bears with us, so we can bear with others also!
3. FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER:
Sometimes “bearing with” someone doesn’t suffice, but we need to forgive because of sin committed against us. A small group is also a great place to learn to forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Many people avoid and run away from godly confrontation, rather than learning to confront and forgive. The Bible teaches us that unforgiveness can lead to anger and become a root of bitterness, which turns out bad for anyone near the situation. It is important to teach the importance of forgiveness and create a culture of forgiveness within small groups. Just like Jesus has forgiven us,we are to forgive others!
4. PREFER ONE ANOTHER:
Also, unity comes easier when we prefer one another (Philippines 2:3; Romans 12:10). One of the ways that we can better forbear and forgive is to prefer one another. To prefer is to count others more significant than ourselves. It is much easier to love and bear with others when we have this humble mindset. The problem is that many times our pride gets in the way and we elevate ourselves in our minds greater than those who we do small group with, which causes division. Preferring one another would create so much more unity in our small groups and church. In Romans 12:10 it talks about outdoing one another in showing honor! This is a crazy and counter-cultural thought! What if our small groups were full of people who tried to outdo one another in boasting about others, rather than self? This is a worthy and Biblical goal that will help to produce unity.
These 4 one-another’s aren’t easy to live out, and unity isn’t always easy to maintain, but is so important as we re-gather together post-quarantine! These spiritual one-another’s can only be accomplished consistently by walking in step with the Spirit. Would you commit to following these one-another’s and teaching your small group to do the same? The unity that would be produced through applying these one-another’s would cause our small groups to shine as a bright light in a dark and divided world.