today I want to look at the subject of unity: unity in our Church family and unity across denominational lines.
The scripture says:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
we all can see that when a Church is unified and working together it is a much more pleasant environment, a place of peace and harmony..
Divisions in the Church can cause heartache and may result in some members leaving the Church, but when the members of a Church make an effort to strengthen the bonds of unity and heal the hurts that have resulted from disunity, the church can be stronger and more able and willing to serve God, our master and blessed lord.
In my town we have interdenominational prayer meetings, where members of the different Churches get together at one church to pray about a variety of things. We also work together for a few events during the year such as the world day of prayer service and the carols service at the end of the year. The pastors of the Churches get together for discussion and prayer from time to time. We can do a lot for God when we all work together.
Here is an example of what unity can do:
In the time after the flood and before Abraham, all the people spoke one language and lived near each other. They decided that they
would build a tower that reached heaven, not to glorify God but as a show of what they were capable of doing, to glorify themselves.
Here is what God says:
" And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. [Genesis 11:6]
That is what unity can accomplish. Of course, they were united in an act of rebellion against God, but they were united and God knew the best way to deal with this was to scatter them and give them separate languages.
Because the devil knows that we can accomplish a lot when united, he will do his level best to cause divisions in the Church.
Here is one example from Scripture of a divided, disunified Church.
Now I encourage you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: agree with each other and don't be divided into rival groups. Instead be restored with the same mind and the same purpose. My brothers and sisters, Chloe’s people gave me some information about you,
that you're fighting with each other. What I mean is this: that each one of you says, "I belong to Paul," "I belong to Apollos," "I belong to Cephas," "I belong to Christ." Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in Paul’s name?
[1 Corinthians 1:10-16]
the group had splintered into 4 separate factions,for Paul, for Appolos
For Peter [Cephas] and for Christ. This division had caused arguing among the believers.
as each side argued for their chosen leader. I am sure you can imagine the sort of problems that would arise in a divided group like this, arguments between groups, divisions even in homes where people were for different leaders, each group trying to prove that the others were all wrong and they were in the right. you know how it goes,
when we know we are right our flesh nature wants to prove to everybody else that they are wrong in whatever it is we are arguing about ,and give detailed explanations as to why they are so wrong, we love to be proved right.
What a mess! Paul makes it clear to them that Christ is the leader of all and that himself, Appolos and peter were only servants through whom they learned about Christ and began to grow in the faith. What sort of example do you think this kind of Church group would be setting for non-believers?
Unity doesn't mean we necessarily totally agree with everything each other believes, but unity is when we agree to disagree and put our differences aside.
Of course, if someone's beliefs differ in a major area such as salvation by faith in Christ or salvation by works only, then we need to pray for the one who believes in a works based salvation to learn the truth, loving them, not looking down on them and, if God guides us to,gently and respectfully show them the truth from God's word.
An example of a doctrine that people disagree on is the doctrine of the rapture. some are pre-tribulationists [/That is, that Jesus will come for the Church before the Tribulation starts], some are mid-tribulationists and others are post-tribulationists. others don't believe in the rapture at all. The truth is we don't know, when Jesus is coming back. I personally am a pre-tribulationist, as I explain in another post here, but just because I think that way doesn't mean that if I had a friend who doesn't agree with me about that I need to argue with them about it and try to prove I'm in the right. Rather, since we don't really know anyway we can agree to disagree and focus on the things and beliefs we do have in common.
The Scripture says:
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. [2 Timothy 3:14]
Another thing that causes disunity in the Church is gossip. This is one I struggle with a bit. We have to think, when we are going to share some piece of information about another,
- is this true,
- is sharing this helpful,
- what is my motive for sharing it.
Let me show you how this works. Now, as an example, Imagine if you heard that I was taking drugs. NOW I don't and never have taken drugs but this is just an example. Then if you told your friends "Did you know that Rishie takes drugs, and she calls herself a Christian,don't you think that's terrible?"
even if it was true Jesus gives us very clear ways of dealing with sin in the Church and they don't include gossip. The way to handle it would be to confront me and if I didn't listen, to bring a couple of witnesses along, and if I still didn't pay attention to make it known to the Church and if I still didn't pay attention, to treat me like an outcast and hopefully I would be brought to a realisation of my sin.
Gossip doesn't do any good but it can do a lot of harm, especially if the things we are gossiping about aren't true, it can damage relationships and cause problems in the church.
Another thing that can be very hurtful is if someone treats us nicely but then says unkind things about us behind our backs and it gets back to us. Ouch!I had a friend, once who came to stay with us for a while and when she left she said it has been nice seeing me and she was looking forward to next time but she said to one of my friends that she would not come back to visit here as long as I was here. Now that person and i sorted things out and I'm not saying this to put her down just using it as an example. You can imagine how that hurt. now if we have a problem with someone the best thing to do is to lovingly speak to them about it and tell them how we feel.
So if there is disunity in the church, What can we do about it?
Firstly? pray. Take it before the lord, if possible get a group of people together and pray about it.
Secondly, if God leads, you may be able to intervene to help reunite the rival groups.
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have laboured side by side
with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Sometimes one who isn't in the middle of the dispute can bring rivals together to try and sort things out or at the least, to agree to disagree. Jesus says this:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
we need to be guided by the Spirit because on our own we could end up doing more harm than good But with God's help we may be able to reconcile those who are at odds with each other.
If there is disunity in the Church it shouldn't be ignored but the members of the Church need to seek God about it and then do what he tells us to do.
As for disunity between members of different denominations, We need to pray about that too and God may show us something that we can do, such as starting a morning tea for Christian ladies in the town or area you live in,
or having a men's breakfast or a picnic or something every so often.
We need to be careful that we are not critical of people in other denominations I know someone who sometimes makes negative generalisations about members of a different denomination, and i have been guilty of negative thoughts about people from another denomination, all this should definitely be avoided. If we know that we are feeling this way or doing this sort of thing we need to pray about it. In one of her books Beth Moore talks about making friends with a Christian lady she met and then discovering that this lady belonged to a denomination that was looked down on by the members of Beth's Church. She explained that this friendship helped open her eyes and that God used it to deal with this prejudice she had against members of the other Church. God can do the same in our lives too, if he sees we have a prejudice against members of other denominations or other races or people of different colour or whatever our prejudices might be. Prejudice has no place in the body of Christ and if we are prejudiced God is not likely to allow you to stay that way.
In closing I want to leave you with a scripture from the book of Ephesians chapter 4 :3-6:
and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all who is over all, through all, and in all.
Do you notice what stands out in this passage?
1 ... 1.... 1 ... 1....
He couldn't have made it clearer. As the song says:
Father make us one
that the world may know
you have sent your son
father make us one."
May this be our prayer.
I hope I have given you all something to think about. May God bless each of you!