By Bailey Richardson
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “unity in marriage.” Pay attention to how you feel when you think about it. Do you get confused? Defensive? Relieved? Peaceful?
What Is Unity in Marriage?
Unity isn’t something I learned much about while I was growing up. I wasn’t active in church until I was nearly done with high school, so I never heard it there. Unity also wasn’t a word I ever heard my parents talk about. Unity has been a pretty elusive term to me until more recently.
I’ve spent most of my marriage wrongly assuming unity meant agreeing on everything.
I would say things to my husband like, “I want to be unified about the way we discipline our kids.” And even though that sounded right, what I was really saying was, “I want you to discipline our kids the same way I do.”
Have you ever felt like that?
See, it’s impossible to agree on every issue. In fact, it’s not just impossible—it’s unhealthy. God created you and your spouse uniquely, and although it’s often hard for stubborn women like me to believe, our differences are part of what makes us thrive in marriage.
That’s good news. You know why?
You can disagree and still be unified.
What Does the Bible Say about Unity?
In the Bible, Paul writes a letter to the church in Ephesus. Your Bible translation likely has a subtitle over chapter 4 that says something like, “Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ.” Paul may have been writing to a church, not a married couple, but the same principles of unity still apply.
Paul writes, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3, NIV).
A church can have anywhere from a handful of people to thousands of people. If unity meant agreeing on everything, that’s a lot of people with strong differences and opinions needing to align with one another.
Unity isn’t uniformity. Unity is when God’s people, different as they may be, come together with one mission under one God.
Paul says in verses 4-7, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
God gave us each our own gifts, or “grace” as Paul calls it, but God also called us to one hope.
4 Ways to Foster Unity in Marriage
We can use Paul’s letter as a guide for us as we seek to cultivate unity in our own marriages. And although I’m writing specifically about marriage, we can use these principles in all our other relationships as well!
- Be humble.
Are you willing to listen to your husband when he has a different opinion? Are you willing to lay down your own agenda and pride to submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance?
- Be gentle.
Notice your tone and body language when you’re speaking to your spouse. Are you using kind words and a gentle touch? Are you holding his wrongs over him, or are you releasing him to be the man God is shaping him to be?
- Be patient.
Do you point out every flaw and wrongdoing as soon as they happen, or are you willing to be patient, pray, and address issues calmly as they arise? Do you trust God’s work of sanctification in your husband’s life?
- Bear with one another in love.
Key word: with. A huge part of unity in marriage is recognizing that you are with one another, not against. Let your love for each other cause you to work together toward unity. Try to hear each other out. Whenever you can, find solutions you both feel good about, and be willing to let go of less important things to serve the greater thing: your marriage.
Unity doesn’t happen when one person gives up their individuality and beliefs and opinions to appease their spouse. Unity happens when each partner willingly lays down their own agendas and seeks the Holy Spirit’s guidance together.
Wife Step: Ask your husband what he thinks you both do well in fostering unity. Then, ask where he sees areas for improvement. Together, pray for the Holy Spirit to bring a deeper unity to your marriage.
Bailey Richardson is the wife of a Paul Bunyan look-a-like, the mama of a growing little family, and a woman on the wild adventure of pursuing Jesus. She lives in a small lake town in Minnesota where her family is highly involved in their local church and Young Life, a global non-profit youth ministry. A self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist,” Bailey loves writing for and connecting with women who want to more deeply experience the grace, freedom, and abundance that comes from following Jesus. You can find her at baileymrichardson.com or on Instagram @baileymrichardson.