Perhaps the biggest obstacle to unity, whether in the family, in the church, or in any community, is our tendency for selfishness. We all have different wants and needs, some good, some bad, some legitimate, and others… not so much. When our individual wants and needs come in conflict with the wants and needs of someone else, problems arise. Sometimes the conflict leads to compromise; sometimes it leads to one person giving up their position to please or serve another; and other times it just gets ugly.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This directive comes in a list of others intended to encourage the church to do as Paul wrote in the first two verses of that chapter: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” As disciples of Jesus, we strive to be more like him, to be imitators of him, because we love him. Jesus’ example of sacrifice, giving himself for our sake, leads us to submit to one another.

As we continue in our mission to love God, love people, and serve like Jesus, we will become more unified as we imitate Jesus. This shows clearly the importance of the process of becoming and growing as a disciple. It’s one thing to connect to God, but if we’re not growing in our faith and knowledge of Jesus, we won’t be able to imitate him as we should.

The more we learn about Jesus, the more we can see the importance of submitting to each other, giving up our own wants and needs for the sake of the whole body. While it seems counterintuitive, the more we put others first, the closer we connect to them; just as when we submit to God, we grow closer to him. Let’s continue to encourage each other, out of love for God and each other, and submit to each other as we grow and serve together.