Unity is a beautiful thing… or at least could be and should be under the right conditions. Of course, people collectively bent on violence or fear can be just as ugly a scene as a group can be beautiful which is concentrated on good.
But God’s people, when unified under His leadership can be an especially lovely sight. Understand, however, that my statement has at its core some significant assumptions. Without these conditions in place, the beauty of such unity is merely a mirage.
The first assumption is that before God’s people, the Church, can be unified under His leadership, they must first be separated from the world for God’s purposes and therefore unique to the world in nature and destiny.
Jesus’ teachings necessitates such a kind of separation because the world-at-large is under condemnation for sin as it pursues its own purposes and slides into its own destiny of destruction and eternal separation from Him.
“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:51 ESV). “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18 ESV).
When Jesus remarks that He came to bring division, He is indicating that salvation requires a heart movement that swims against the flow of worldly patterns of thinking in our world, our society, our workplaces, and even in most of our homes.
Responding to God’s call to follow Him, therefore, generates division from the outset of our Christian experience as we turn our allegiances from institutions and personalities that the world venerates. As we yield our love and life to His sovereign claim to our lives, we are blatantly disconnecting from the world around us.
The second assumption that we must retain as we assess the beauty (or lack thereof) of unity, is that of the purity of our united devotion to God. For our unity to be more than just a neat idea and to keep it from becoming a disgusting mockery of what it should be, the Church must not become distracted by becoming infected with the woes of complacency, hate, greed, idolatry, immorality, or pride. The Church (both universally speaking as well as the local assemblies with whom we worship and minister) is comprised of individuals. And when those individuals are collectively living the lives to which God has called them (pure and holy, loving and serving), the body is uniform in its character and godlier in its essence.
This does not happen automatically, as you might have guessed. It happens when God’s people undertake the joint venture of knowing God through His Word and truly seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). The Bible records for us Jesus’ prayer for the unity of His people (in the context of the above mentioned criteria).
“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You (God the Father) have given Me, for they are Yours.…. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth…. may (they) all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me (John 17:9, 16-17, 21-23 ESV).
So what do we do with this call for unity? First, remember that God’s appeal for our unity requires that we first be separate from the world: we belong to Him and not ourselves. Second, remember that the saving grace that He has bestowed to us (to which the cross of Christ bears testimony) binds together all those whose lives it has transformed in a supernaturally and divinely instituted organism: the Church. Third, in the context of the these first two facts, we may see that we are individuals who are diverse in gifts, personalities, and contributions to the larger body, but individuals who, like parts of the body, together share a common life, along with a common purpose (God’s glory) and a common hope (eternity with God through faith in Christ Jesus). Finally, our bond is not merely that we share a common cause but is instead the fact that His very Spirit indwells us and links our lives to one another with cords that human eyes cannot see.
“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” (Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV). “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world…. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God” (1 John 4:4, 7a ESV).
So, let those who have been born of God walk together the path to which the Lord has set before our feet. Let us link our hearts in the common yoke of loving Him with all our heart, soul, and strength, and let us surrender pride and selfishness, as well as fear and anger, to the Holy One we serve so that He might accomplish in and through us more than our hearts can imagine and show the world that He is truly the King of His people.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 23 years. He is the author of “The Fairy Tale Parables,” “Crimson Harvest,” and “A Heart at Home with God.” He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).