Unity is in the very nature of the Trinity. God the Father, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit are one.
Unity is what Jesus prayed for us: I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they may be one as We are one ~ I in them and You in Me ~ so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me. (from John 17)
It is sobering, the witness our unity ~ our peace between us ~ bears. It is revealing, too, isn’t it?
If it is our unity that will show the world that they are loved by God, wouldn’t a primary course of action for the enemy be to sow discord… to divide… to pull us far from His purpose?
What a beacon of hope ~ the salt, the light ~ we would color this world with if we were one, the temple of God, a dwelling place of the Spirit, with Christ as our Cornerstone!
And, yes, it may seem that this is far from our current reality ~ the children of God all around this world, coming together as one body. Yet what is impossible with man is possible with God. (Luke 18:27)
You and I ~ we have the choice every single day whether or not we will be makers of peace, known as the huios of God. Perhaps it feels like a small thing, our own personal choices, in the face of the view our world has of the church as a cold-hearted, divided, bickering body… but, friends, as an old song so aptly says ~ “little is much when God is in it”.
Jesus said that if even two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in My name, there I am with them. (Matthew 18:19-20)
Knowing this promise, understanding that unity (even between just two of us!) makes a difference in this world because of His power and grace ~ Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace! (Colossians 3:15)
We are to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-6)
Does this mean that we should keep silent when there are problems in our church? If someone is struggling with sin, should we turn away without speaking up in order to avoid confrontation?
No, it does not. Maybe we confuse peacemaking with concession. Maybe we mistake passivity for peace. A false peace ~ one maintained by allowing the Church to overlook sin ~ can only result in a church that is far from God’s heart and purpose. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Jesus did not condone sin; if sin was harmless to us and easily pushed aside, His body would not have been crushed for our iniquities. We know that the wages of sin are death. We know that it leads to destruction. So love does not stay silent when someone is in disobedience to God’s Word ~ James 5:20 says that whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and John urges us to pray for a brother or sister who is committing sin. (1 John 5:16)
But may we do so with the awe-filled knowledge that we, too, fall short of the glory of God and that there is one Holy God who is able to judge a man’s heart. As we encourage one another to do what is right, we must not forget that judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)
In Matthew 18, Jesus gives us a specific way to handle this ~ If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (We’ll talk more about this last bit later this week).
Notice that this proper order is to give the person a chance to see their error ~ notice that the point is to reconcile the brother or sister and not to condemn them. If we love one another as Christ loves us, won’t we long for our family of God to live in freedom? Won’t our hearts be broken to see someone choose to pick up the chains of sin again? Won’t we intercede for their hearts ~ talking to God on their behalf instead of to each other about their mistake? Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (from 1 Cor. 13)
Jesus did not humiliate Peter after his denial. The father did not shame the prodigal son. When Thomas doubted, Jesus stretched out His hands and helped him to believe.
Paul urged the Corinthian church to forgive and comfort an offender ~ to reaffirm their love for him so that he would not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. We forgive, Paul says, so that satan might not outwit us, for we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 2)
May we resist the enemy’s influence ~ his division, his discordant voice ~ through the power of the Holy Spirit and cause him to flee from our Church.
Differences in opinion will rise in the church ~ but when it is not a matter of sin, when the issue is not a matter of defending the truth of the Gospel ~ then should we hold so tightly to our causes?
James asks us this ~ What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1)
I believe we have to take a look at our surface-issue disagreements and know what they will cost us ~ our witness of unity, our agreement in prayer, our obedience. Honor one another above yourselves, Paul says in Romans 12, and we have to know that ~ at times ~ this will be difficult. Sometimes we will so fully feel that we are right and ‘they’ are wrong ~ but holding onto anger against our brothers and sisters is wrong.
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5)
God did not create us to be identical ~ He does not expect us to always agree on everything, but He does expect us to live without making our disagreements louder than our love. Maybe this is why Romans 12:16 says ~ Live in harmony with one another.
It can be easy to wonder, sometimes, why He chose to make us so different from one another ~ and then I think of the definition of harmony. It’s “two or more different tones that produce an impression of agreeableness”.
It takes differences ~ purposefully played in accord, surrendered to the design of the composer ~ to create the unparalleled sweetness of a harmony.
That’s the beautiful wonder of a Body brought together and held together in the bonds of peace ~ it is a miracle of grace and a witness to the power of God’s love.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)