“How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!”
Of course you realise that a statement like this (from Psalm 133) was only made because God’s people didn’t live together in unity. You can hear something of the aspirational quality of that in Romans 15.
“Together” is how we should be working, says Paul. Why? “So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
Paul even comands this cohesion in Colossians 3:15 “Let peace be your governor… And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you are called in one body; and be thankful.”
It seems a strange command. How is it up to me to let peace rule and be my “governor”? Isn’t that up to the circumstances? Let the circumstances be favorable and I’ll be ok, right? I mean, I want to be happy, but the Bible doesn’t command us to be happy. Paul says “Be thankful” which implies that thankfulness, like peace is a duty laid upon us. Which means that it’s a possible accomplishment…. it’s something within reach.
And it also means that there’s something badly wrong if peace doesn’t “rule.”
And remember that Paul was writing from prison! And he experienced loads of problems, heresies, backbiting, persecution… and yet he demands peace! Not very favorable circumstances here!
And then he adds “To which you are called in one body.” This suggests that the unity of the church and the peace of the individual are tied together.
Think about that: unity in my church family, peace in my heart.
So what does he mean by unity? Does he mean unified like an army, moving to one command in tight-lipped obedience? Or like the physical body is unified, with all its bits working under one brain – All different, but moved under the same direction?
To an extent, the answer is yes, but it’s an analogy, and not a total explanation.
But you have to have unity to have peace, don’t you? You don’t talk about the peace of your finger or ankle. The whole body has to be in unity to be at peace.
True: but they’re different, aren’t they? In the body, my kneecap is different to my face. It is not the unity of UNIFORMITY. This is where the army analogy doesn’t quite work.
So what is the unity of peace? If I lost my arm then my whole body is deformed. Apparently, If I lost my big toe then I would also lose my balance.
In the simplest analysis, Paul’s idea of unity is of different things working together.
So when you apply that to the question of the unity of the church, does it really mean uniformity? Everybody acting and believing in the same way, with a doctrinal checklist to govern entrance? Some would tend that way.
Hey: just as an aside: Does the sheer number of denominations mean that there are a million ways to worship God or that we’re just so sinful we just can’t get on together?
Well, both. I guess!
You have to conclude that every denomination has its little bit of the truth. Yes? You didn’t think yours was perfect, did you?
In which case we need the whole rainbow spectrum to produce the one vital thing. All the various shades are beautiful, distinctive, precious, but it is the whole which is the Body of Christ.
A harmony is made up of different notes. Otherwise it becomes a mono-tone. And monotony pleases no one.
So here’s the thing: Peace is not between things exactly alike. We don’t need peace between two neighbors who agree on everything!
Paul saw all these people with differing views and he said: “Far from that variety destroying unity, it is the only ground of unity.” Blend those doctrines? Keep only the smallest of walls between us. And let there be the peace of love, and then you will have unity. There are no denominations in heaven! Because there is only one animating principle in the whole church: only one cohesive factor, and that is Christ. One faith, one Lord, one Spirit.
It’s the picture of Acts 2 where all the different nations heard in their own language the wonderful acts of God. All different, all connected.
And what is the individual peace that comes from that unity? It’s the peace of CHRISTwho is the center of the wheel, and the nearer we get to that center, the nearer we get to each other.
This is family business.