Pursuing Unity as Believers in a World That’s Divided
What does it actually mean to have unity in the Church? In a world that’s so divided – where division is sometimes even encouraged – how do we seek true unity in Christ to stand out as the salt and light of the world? Unfortunately, we know that it’s not just within the world around us, but largely within the Church that we also see great division.
This poses the question: are we genuinely reflecting what God calls the Body of Christ to look like? How appealing does the Church actually look to our world? If we can’t demonstrate unity as the Body of Christ how can we expect those in our lives that aren’t following Jesus to be drawn to their knees?
If the Church isn’t representing the love of Christ, which is different from the love found in our world, how will people know we are true disciples of Jesus? God’s Word says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35 NIV).
GOD’S HEART FOR UNITY:
When it comes to seeking unity as the Body of Christ it’s important for us to understand unity from a biblical standpoint. Unity does not mean we all agree, have the same opinions, viewpoints, have the same ways of doing things, the same backgrounds, or the same culture.
From the very beginning, we see God’s heart to draw people of all cultures and backgrounds together to share the one most important thing in common – their love for Jesus and commitment to live for him. We see this shown in Jesus’s ministry on earth by the first twelve disciples he chooses to follow him. To name a few, Andrew, Peter, James, and John were fishermen, Matthew was a tax collector, and Simon was a political activist.
It’s likely that each one of the disciples had differing opinions about a variety of different things and faced disagreements as they lived in community with one another, but the thing that they shared in common was their commitment to following Jesus.
Another place we see this reflected is in the early Church after Jesus ascends into heaven and commissions the apostles (and all believers) to share the gospel with every nation. Specifically, in Acts 16 we see the formation of the church of Philippi as Paul and Silas are doing ministry in the district of Macedonia.
While preaching in this city, the converts we see start the church are as follows: a rich woman who sold fine purple cloth and her family, a girl who was previously a slave and possessed by a demon, and a prison guard. Can you imagine what it would have been like for these individuals to worship God together as one of the first churches?
How challenging or uncomfortable it might have been to interact with each other where in no other context they would have interacted. The New Testament as a whole is made up of many letters to the early churches to encourage, call out, challenge, and teach people about ministering to others, as well as how to live in community as a diverse group of people that is united by Jesus Christ.
Although we are not the “early church” these letters apply to us today. In a world that continues to find reasons to be divided, we need to continually remind ourselves of what his word says about how we are to live as Jesus’s followers and as reflections of who he is.
In Ephesians 4:15-16 (NLT) we see an explanation of what the Body of Christ looks like. We see the importance of being different parts that make us up as a whole and how necessary each any every part is to function as God designed it. His scripture says,
“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
IRON SHARPENS IRON:
As the Church, it’s vital that we are not all of the same mind, strengths, gifts, backgrounds, cultures, etc. In fact, it’s absolutely necessary that we are not, in order to truly reflect what God calls the Church to be.
Why? If we were all the same, how would we grow as Christians? In relationships with one another? In our families? In our ministries?
The Bible says in Proverbs 27:17 (NLT), “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” How can “iron sharpen iron” – how can we grow in our faith and become more like Christ – if every other believer agrees with us?
What the world needs to see is not the Church without conflict. The world needs to see a Church with conflict that doesn’t lead to division, but restoration. The world needs to see a Church that faces conflict by seeking understanding with those we don’t agree with, forgiveness with those who have wronged us, and the reconciliation of relationships that have been broken.
Unity as The Body of Christ comes not from the absence of conflict, but the presence of followers of Christ learning how to love one another with the sacrificial love of Christ as they work through their disagreements, differences, quarrels, etc.
What better way to grow in reflecting Christ but to practice loving other Christians with the same love that Jesus undeservingly shows us. If the Body of Christ lacks unity in any way, the whole body suffers.
We are not meant to surround ourselves with just certain parts of the Body of Christ. We need each part in order to fully function. If we were just surrounded with other Christians that were just like us, of the same of opinions, background, culture, etc. we would get locked in a way of thinking that doesn’t challenge us to become all of who Jesus calls us to be.
When we embrace what it truly means to be the diverse Body of Christ, we become the light of the world that’s “like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14 NLT). People will be drawn to this kind of love that is only found through Jesus Christ. People will see our unity as believers in a world full of division.
What better time than now?