In our impossibly fractured culture, we live with the tension of disunity every waking moment. Hate, dissension, and contempt flood our news feeds daily. Whether we are discussing politics, racism, cultures, parenting, church practices, or sports teams, we set up divisions and demand everyone take a side. We slice and dice our opponents with wit and verbal ingenuity but leave behind a trail of broken relationships. While this may be normative of the culture, as believers, this should not be so! Our unity is crucial for the sake of the Gospel.
In Romans 15:5, Paul writes, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” One heart? One mouth? How is this even possible? Spend enough time in church culture and you will quickly realize the issues that drive brothers and sisters in Christ apart are numerous and often trivial. In addition, the family of God is derived from many different races and cultures all with their own interpretation of how the Gospel should be lived out.
Again I ask, how is unity possible under these conditions? Jesus answered this question in His prayer for all believers shortly before His crucifixion. In John 17:20, He prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”
First and foremost, our unity with other believers depends on our unity with Christ. It is through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that I am made one with the Father just as He was made one with Christ. This holy union is the basis for all other relationships. Once my vertical relationship with Jesus is correctly aligned, I can begin to love those around me deeply and authentically.
Our unity is not based on shared cultures, personal interests, or personal tastes, but on something much deeper and more profound. It is not what we have in common that matters, but WHO we have in common. Sometimes Jesus will be all that connects us, but that connection will last an eternity. There are a thousand ways to splinter a church and only One Way to bring it together again. We don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand, but we must be walking the same path and headed in the same direction.
In Romans 14:1, Paul encourages us to “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters.” Love one another, stand firm in the essentials, and be charitable in the small things. A unified church brings glory to Jesus, and when Jesus is glorified, the world will sit up and take notice.