Many agree that unity is lacking in the church. Many also try to create unity by having city-wide gatherings, combined pastors meetings, combined prayer meetings etc. and call that unity. This may have the look of unity, but true unity can only be found in the hearts of people. Only the One who can change people’s hearts can bring about true unity, not man, or you will have a fleshly, worldly substitute that may look like unity but is not. The world is unimpressed with seeing what looks like unity in religion and churches, what WILL impress them is when they see One Person through many…
We ARE One in Christ. Not two, not thousands and millions, but ONE for we are not speaking physically (of things earthly) but spiritually (of things heavenly). Christ is our common Denominator; not denominations! As our one Denominator from Him we receive our name and description (Christ’s). We are One Body, One Temple, One Family, One City, One Couple.
Ephesians 4:3 says to strive to guard and keep the unity or oneness produced by the Spirit. It is not something we create; it is something which is produced by the Spirit of God and we then guard it. The verses above speak of Love as being the bond of perfectness and harmony. If we unite ourselves simply for unity’s sake and through our own work, there will inevitably be compromise because we will not have been united by and through Christ, but FOR the sake of unity. Unity itself becomes the goal and the idol. Being united as a result of Christ within us is a totally different scenario because unity happens as a RESULT of Him Who lives in us, not because we go seeking it and applying our own human effort to it!
Paul makes it clear that there are DIFFERENT gospels that are preached and DIFFERENT christs that are believed in. He was also pretty clear about separating from those who preached and believed a different gospel and Christ than that which he had preached, “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” (2 Tim. 3:5). Unity is not ever about compromise and accepting everyone who names the name of Christ (many will call Him Lord and He will say He never knew them) but unity IS about being joined together in the common bond of His Life within us.
The Truth (who is Christ) can never be compromised. It is Him as TRUTH and LIFE that we recognise in others because HE IS THE TRUTH and the LIFE and it is He Who is living in us! I’m not saying that I or anyone else knows all truth, but simply that we know Christ Who IS Truth because He lives within us so we then also recognise and bear witness to His Truth and His Life in others when we hear and see it! We are dwellings, houses for Him to live in. When someone opens the door of their life/house and you enter in to commune with them, you will either feel immediately at home because you find Him Whom you know and love living there; or the house may feel simply empty, or it will feel unfriendly and even hostile. If you don’t recognise Him as the Truth or the Life in another, who says that they have Christ within and that you should unite with them? That may be why John wrote this startling statement:
“We are children of God. Whoever is learning to know God listens to us (eg they recognise Him who is Truth!) and he who is NOT of God does not listen or pay attention to us. BY THIS we know and recognize the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error.” (1 Jn 4:6).
And Jesus said “Whoever is of God listens to God [Those who belong to God hear the words of God]. This is the reason that you do not listen; because you do not belong to God and are not of God or in harmony with Him.” (John 8:47).
Those are pretty hard words… Jesus said: “Do you suppose that I have come to bring peace upon earth? No, I say to you, rather division; for from now on in one house there will be five divided among themselves, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother in law against her daughter in law and daughter in law against her mother in law. Lk 12:51-53. Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to part asunder a man from his father and a daughter from her mother and a newly married wife from her mother in law and a man’s foes will be they of his own household.” Matt 10:34-36. Hard words!
He caused a lot of division among the religious people of His day,So there arose a division and dissension among the people concerning Him. John 7:43 He was even said to be demonised and mad. Then a fresh division of opinion arose among the Jews because of His saying these things. And many of them said, He has a demon and He is mad. Why do you listen to Him? John 10:19,20. Not only did Jesus cause division, but Paul did too! And he went into the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, persuading and arguing about the kingdom of God. But when some became more and more stubborn, discrediting and speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he separated himself from them, taking the disciples with him, and went on holding daily discussion in the lecture room of Tyrannus. Acts 19:8,9 When he said this, an angry dispute arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the whole assembly was divided into two factions. Acts 23:7 The early followers of Christ were controversial! But the residents of the town were divided, some siding with the Jews, and some with the apostles. Acts 14:4
In the church’s history there has always been division regarding the things that God is doing. Paul in 1 Cor 11:18,19 said “I hear that there are cliques and divisions among you; and I in part believe it, for doubtless there have to be factions among you in order that they who are genuine and of approved fitness may become evident and plainly recognised among you.” This shouldn’t surprise us as Jesus told us He didn’t come to bring peace to the earth, to individuals definitely, but not to the earth/world. Light divides. It will always be separated from darkness.
You can imagine them saying in Jesus day that He couldn’t possibly be the Messiah who was meant to be the Prince of Peace because He was disturbing the peace and dividing families and the leaders of their religion! The Jews didn’t recognise that their Messiah was right in their midst, He became a stumbling block to them as Isaiah had said He would, “He shall be a sanctuary to those who reverently fear and trust in Him; but He shall be a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble thereon; and they shall fall and be broken and be snared and taken.” Is 8:14,15. And Peter said “To you then who believe is the preciousness (of Him); but for those who disbelieve, the very Stone which the builders rejected has become the main Cornerstone, and a Stone that will (future tense!) cause stumbling and a Rock that will give men offence; they stumble because they disobey and disbelieve God’s Word as those who reject Him were destined and appointed to do.” 1 Pet 2:7,8. We need to beware that we ourselves are not guilty of spiritual prejudice, self righteousness and holding onto our traditions which will make us do the very same thing as the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.
The divisions that Paul did warn about were to do with following a man instead of Jesus Christ which is exactly the problem that is rampant in churches today: “But I urge you brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you be in perfect harmony in what you say and that there be no divisions or factions among you but that you be perfectly united in your common understanding and in your judgments. For… there are contentions and factions among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says, I belong to Paul or I belong to Apollos, or I belong to Peter or I belong to Christ. Is Christ divided into parts? Was Paul crucified on behalf of you? …So then, as it is written, Let him who boasts and glories, boast and glory in the Lord. 1 Cor 1:10-13,31. For when one says I belong to Paul, and another, I belong to Apollos, are you not proving yourselves unchanged men? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Ministering servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord appointed to each his task: I planted, Apollos watered, but God was making it grow and He gave the increase.” 1 Cor 3:4-6.
Unity is the result and by-product of Christ and His Life and Love. It is the fruit and resulting growth of One Life in us. Love, as we know it in its natural, human form, is basically selfish. It is all centered around me; I love to be loved, I need to be loved, I want to be loved; it is self-centred and self satisfying. If we love others in this selfish, self-serving way, God will often take us out of those relationships in order to deal with our self love until we have His Love as the foundation in our lives. THEN He has the right foundation on which to build deeper relationships and we can love our brothers and sisters as He intends us to.
God’s love in us is the OPPOSITE to natural human love, it is all about GIVING and not receiving, it is not selfish but is self-giving, laying down your life. “This is My commandment: that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends.” John 15:12,13.
Loving others as He wants us to, is all about giving away yourself and being vulnerable and open to others which is the antithesis of the other kind of love which is about protecting yourself and remaining aloof. The irony of understanding this is that people (especially in Christian circles) are sometimes taught NOT to develop close relationships with brothers and sisters, not to become too familiar with them or they will regret it and be hurt. This is nothing short of a lie of the enemy in order to prevent love and unity in the Body. We are COMMANDED to love one another, we are ALLOWED to love one another, we are FREE to love one another; ‘against such there is no law’ (Galatians 5:23)!
In this new creation all distinctions vanish. There is no room for and there can be neither Greek nor Jew… nor slave or free man: but Christ is all and in all… Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also forgive. And above all these put on love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony. Colossians 3:11-14