By Shawn McMullen
Unity among believers—specifically in the context of the local church—was of great importance to the apostle Paul.
He challenged Christians in the church at Corinth, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10). To believers in the church in Ephesus he wrote, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
The call to unity was important to Paul because it was important to Christ. Before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. 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” (John 17:20, 21).
Given Christ’s passion for it and Paul’s instructions to the church regarding it, we can safely say unity among believers is as important a doctrinal issue as any other teaching of Scripture. Even so, God’s people often ignore this doctrinal imperative. Although they share a common God, a common Lord, and a common Spirit, some brothers and sisters in Christ resort quickly to divisive comments and actions when they disagree with other Christians.
Perhaps it’s because they are missing a key point in the call to unity and neglecting a simple approach that, when practiced, makes it incredibly difficult to be at odds with members of the same spiritual household.
The key? Focusing on Christ. When Jesus Christ becomes the focal point of our lives—when our love and devotion to him supersede our agendas, our selfish interests, and our personal feelings—then and only then do we reach the point where we desire what he desires. And we become willing to do (to think, speak, and act) whatever we have to do to make sure the will of the Lord prevails. That includes putting forth “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
We can’t dismiss doctrinal differences in our pursuit of unity. But as we work through our differences (doctrinal or philosophical) with other Christians, the world must see something unique about us—that even the way we handle our disagreements points to Christ.
A.W. Tozer observed,
Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer
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