Unity is not something we are experiencing as a nation right now. We are more divided right now than we have ever been. Cooperation has been replaced by aggressive resistance at all levels. Recent actions by our new President have done nothing to quell the discord. I fear that we are in for a rough ride ahead.
Discord and strife are like cancer. Left unchecked they spread, sometimes rapidly. Discord in one area can quickly metastasize into another area. Battle lines get drawn and people get hurt. As followers of Christ, we are not immune from the dangers of discord. The discord in our world can seep into our churches and tear us apart. That is exactly what Satan is trying to accomplish. His ultimate goal is the destruction of humanity and in particular the Church.
It is essential, in these times of discord, that we work hard at maintaining godly unity. Unity does not happen automatically. It must be cultivated and nurtured. It takes intentional effort to stay focused on maintaining the integrity of the Church.
Paul stressed this when he wrote to the church in Ephesus. It seems like, wherever Paul went, there were always those who would come after him and stir up trouble. They would divide these new believers in an effort to gain control over them. Paul was constantly rebuilding a commitment to unity in Christ. His instructions to the Ephesians still apply to us today.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 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. 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 4:1-6
Many of those who stirred up trouble were promoting some version of “Jesus plus something else.” It may have been the controversy over eating of meat sacrificed to idols or the need to keep all of the old Jewish laws. For some it was Jesus plus secret knowledge that only certain people had. Whatever the issue, it caused discord and disunity in the body of Christ.
The same thing happens today when churches make a particular cause the most important thing. They begin to measure other people’s spiritual life by how they respond to the cause of the day. This is nothing more than a tactic by Satan to divide the Church. Paul gives us a strategy to guard our unity against these attacks by Satan.
The most important thing is keeping the most important thing the most important thing. What is that? It is the truth that we are one in Jesus Christ. We are all part of the body of Christ. We all have different roles and functions, but we all belong. If we are going to maintain unity within the Church, we need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3
With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we need to treat each other with respect and compassion. We are not adversaries, but allies. There is room for seeing things differently and still maintaining our unity. Godly unity is never uniformity. That is what makes the Church so amazing. By the power of the Holy Spirit, diverse people, from diverse backgrounds, with diverse ideas are brought together as one. We need to leave room for honest disagreement. We also need to extend grace to one another at all times.
In all things, we need to live lives worthy of our calling in Christ. Our lives should reflect His character. Our lives should advance His goals. Our lives should be given away in service to Christ and to others. Just as Christ was willing to set aside His glory in heaven and take his place with us on earth, so we need to set aside our “glory” to take our place alongside of one another. As Paul says in Philippians 2:1-4: If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
During this time of discord in our nation, the world needs to see a different and better way modeled by those of us who follow Jesus. It is time to stand together and shine the light of Christ into our dark world.
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16