Written by Paul J. Bucknell on June, 05, 2020
The Spirit of Unity (Eph 4:3): Quelling suspicions that arise between brethren
Have you ever seen the physics experiment where some metal balls hang from strings adjacent to each other? A person lifts one end ball and allows it to swing into the adjacent one. Each ball takes its turn swinging into the following one, transferring its energy to the next.
This process continues with each succeeding ball until the other end ball gains energy and shoots up into the air. After another moment, that same ball brings its energy back to its neighbor, reversing the cycle.
This transfer of energy illustrates what happens to our thoughts. We receive a thought along with its force, including its energy, projection, and direction. After it touches our own mind, we often pass it on.
“Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:3)
On one morning, you determine to be extra kind to another person because you recently have had difficulty being kind to certain people at work. Later in the day, however, as you leave the office, you wondered what happened to your good plans. You started well, but your thoughts turned sour, and your bitter state returned.
May I suggest that an evil thought, much like the first ball, sent its idea along with its energy (i.e., temptation) into one’s mind along with its bitter mindset. Evil and good words consist of more than their accompanying words. Thoughts and attitudes can be transferred, as well. Like a ball thrown at us, we need to receive, dodge, or otherwise be hit, causing bitterness, anger, lust, and other emotions arise quickly in us. Let me share a personal experience highlighting how this process works.
A True Story
I once sensed being critical towards my pastor during the prayer meeting. A volley of thoughts ran through my mind thinking how the pastor could do this or that better. This critical spirit became so aggressive that it alarmed me, causing me to analyze what thoughts were going on in my mind. I was in the middle of spiritual warfare.
Sometimes, I pass on various suggestions to the pastor when appropriate, but these thoughts were different. They had a sinister motive. They fostered an evil suspicion upon his work and furthered arrogance in me. The thought differed greatly from God’s Word, which states, “Love is kind and is not jealous” (1 Cor 13:4). Even more, I could not pray. The enemy kept barraging my mind with these critical thoughts. I concluded that the evil one was instigating all of this.
This spiritual struggle happened for several weeks. I couldn’t stop this attack. No one else knew how the evil one persistently implanted these evil thoughts in my mind during our prayer meetings. I couldn’t easily join in prayer while these thoughts raced through my mind. I had to stay focused to fight these foul thoughts off. The prayer meetings became battlefields in my mind.
A critical spirit attempted to implant itself in me. Rational thoughts told me that the song leading and prayer were not as bad as the thoughts were insinuating (the worship was fine). Therefore, these thoughts were not originating from me but generated by the evil spirit who attempted to build up a spirit of animosity between the pastor and me. Because the thoughts were not resolved and the fight continued, I decided to meet with this pastor to discuss this issue.
I told him about what was happening to me during recent prayer meetings. Sure, I felt stupid bringing this up. I could have been misinterpreted, bringing subtle hints implying his inferior ministry (which it was not). Even though I had a good relationship with the pastor, it was still awkward mentioning this raging battle within. But I forced myself because I valued our relationship.
Most interestingly, once I mentioned this scenario to him and asked him to pray for me, these disturbances immediately disappeared. The prayer meetings returned to normal. I figured the power of the enemy’s warfare consisted of keeping these secrets in the dark. Once exposed, it lost its sinister power.
Those energized balls
Now, when I see a judgmental, critical spirit in me or others that break down the trust between a believer and myself, I know that the evil spirit is prowling about. This is not the Spirit of God but the Accuser and his agents.
What first presents itself, the issue at hand is not the real problem even though it appears so. In this case, the issue was the way the pastor led the prayer meeting. This distraction served as a disguise so that the evil one could launch his attack. Like the initial swinging ball, the evil one thrust his sinister thought along with its pernicious spirit into my mind trying to produce suspicion and a malicious spirit. Satan’s anticipated response would, in turn, put distance between me and my pastor/brother. Our trust would break down, spawning all sorts of evil thoughts and difficulty.
My love for that brother was much more important than any other issue. In Ephesians 4:3 God had called me to be diligent to preserve the unity of Spirit.
Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all (Eph 4:3-6).
Unity is a calling that should shape our thoughts and dealings with others. The evil one wanted me to agree with his criticism and join him (unknowingly). I would then protect my opinion by maintaining a critical spirit by thinking that I’m on God’s side trying to improve the prayer meeting. But by allowing mistrust to infiltrate my mind, I would undermine the great truth of unity. Paul knew the importance of speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15).
If an issue breeds mistrust, then I know it is of the evil one, not of the Holy Spirit. “Through insolence comes nothing but strife” (Proverbs 13:6). Unless I have a spirit of love and a strong desire to build up others, then I will be easily deceived and find agreement with the accusation. By spotting the negative spirit toward another, however, I can see my questionable motivations. Instead of accusing that person or group, I can pray and ask God to build up that brother or sister. I affirm my love for them by being gracious and thank God for them. Again, the initial issue quickly becomes naught and even can be safely ignored.
The Holy Spirit leads us to preserve unity as it clearly instructs in Ephesians 4, “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit.”
Study Questions for Unity of the Spirit
- Memorize Ephesians 6:3.
- Use your own words to clarify the phrase “unity of the Spirit.”
- How did the attack take place in the author’s life?
- What was Satan’s purpose?
- How did the author finally resolve the tension? Why did this help?
- How does the physics illustrate help picture what is going on during this period of temptation?
- Do you ever become suspicious of others? Can you feel bitterness and pride arise?
- How have you resolved this issue in the past?
- How does the author recommend using Ephesians 6:3 to become a protective hedge about us to protect us?
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