By Tammy Darling
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore (Psalm 133).
Every year in the United States, Christians file millions of lawsuits against other Christians. Nearly 1,500 ministers leave their congregations each month. Every day major internal clashes erupt in churches across the country and around the world. Unresolved frustration, disappointment, and unmet expectations pile up, adding another brick to the wall of separation.
Though Christ is not divided, his followers often are. But instead of saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” we can choose to say, “Let’s work together to glorify God.”
One of the key success factors of an organ transplant is whether the body will accept or reject the new organ. If the body accepts the organ as one of its own, then the body will function along with it and grow in strength. If the organ is rejected, the body begins to fight against itself, tearing itself down, sometimes to the point of death. Sounds a lot like church unity and disunity.
There is but one God; therefore those who serve him should be one. This is precisely what Jesus prayed for in John 17:21—that we would be one.
Lack of unity among Christ’s followers is a disgrace. If we refuse to get along, it would be much better to part in peace like Abraham and Lot than to dwell together in envy like Joseph’s brothers.
A Closer Look
David, a man who knew the heartache of division, likely wrote this psalm as Jewish pilgrims returned to Zion. The hymn of joy reflects the result of such unity among the tribes who had gathered together with one purpose of heart and mind. Packed away in these three small verses are six wonderful blessings: goodness, pleasure, anointing, dew, God’s blessing, and eternal life.
Unity is pleasant. The Hebrew word translated pleasant here is also used to describe musical harmony. A band with no harmony is anything but pleasant. The same can be said for a church with no unity. We are to be many Christians playing one sweet harmony.
Such unity is not only pleasant to God but to others and ourselves as well. Even bystanders and spectators are affected. This oil, running down Aaron’s beard onto his priestly garments, symbolizes the blessings that flow from God to saints, from saint to saint, and from saint to sinner.
Therefore church unity will embrace little children, the poor, and the outcasts. It believes that every member is essential to Christ’s body. Unity recognizes that oneness of faith is the true basis of fellowship—not social position or gifting.
When we possess unity, we can dispense with uniformity. Unity exudes oneness of way, truth, and life. We can lay down our “rights” and embrace the joy of life that is found in Christ alone.
The precious oil of unity, comparable to the ointment used to anoint the high priest at his ordination, is holy. Sacred too is our brotherly love.
The oil flowed freely and was not restrained. Such unity extends beyond its point of origin and blesses all that are beneath its influence.
Nowhere in the region was the dew as heavy and visible as the area surrounding Mount Hermon. The psalm likens the dew to brotherly love. Our brotherly love, our unity, should be as unmistakable as the dew of Hermon. This dew saturated everything, penetrated everywhere, as should our love for one another.
The dew of unity refreshes and ushers in a fullness of life and growth. It’s not proud, but rather meek and lowly. It’s full of grace and love. And where love reigns, God reigns, and he commands blessings.
We are not merely to be together or come together for a certain time, on a certain day. We are to dwell together in unity. Dwell is a word of residence, of continuation.
The idea of brothers dwelling together reaches far and wide. When I led a food and clothing ministry in our community, our church asked another local church to join us. They were thrilled that another congregation wanted to join together in ministry because so many refuse to work together.
God sends his blessing where unity is cultivated. Paul expressed the same sentiment when he told us to “be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).
Not only does the Lord send his blessing but he does so “forevermore.” The stream will never cease. It will go forward and increase, flowing into eternal life.
Unity Starts Here
Unity begins with you and me—each one of us. By our character and actions we either strengthen or undermine the unity of Christ’s church. Division within our own hearts can contribute to a lack of unity in the church, even when we don’t realize it.
Such division leads to nit-picking, where we elevate the nonessentials to a place of preeminence. Doctrine is essential. The color of the restrooms is not. Sadly, churches have split over many inconsequential issues.
Each person in the body has a role to play; each one plays a part in determining the extent of unity in the church. We can be a conduit of unity or the cause of a short circuit. How we act and react in response to various circumstances is not just a personal issue; it affects the entire body of believers.
Christian unity is the result of acting on our Christian beliefs. In other words, we live what we say we believe.
There’s no such thing as a perfect congregation. Problems will arise. Tension will mount. Friction is inevitable. But conflict need not command center stage. Despite our differences, we can move forward with sincerity, humility, and love. We can choose to work and worship in unity for the bond that holds us together in love (Colossians 3:14).
Just as the anointing oil dripped from one spot to the next, so will the spirit of unity spread from one person to another. Unity will, in time, make its way from a few to the whole. It’s a personal matter; unity starts with “u.”
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.
Four Ways to Resolve Conflict and Promote Unity
Take a step back. Conflict has a way of snowballing until the real issue is buried. Stop the forward progress of disunity and take a step back to evaluate the original source of contention. Nothing can be resolved until you get to the heart of the issue.
Take your time. Never confront in the heat of emotion or while harboring wrong motives. Ask God to search your heart, purify your motives, and guide your timing of the impending conversation.
Use the right words. Have a clear sense of what you want to say before you say it to avoid stepping on toes and causing additional pain. We can’t go wrong with our words when we depend on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Recognize the true enemy. We don’t fight against flesh and blood “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Satan is continually seeking to cause disunity in the body, because he knows it’s dishonoring to God.
When the Many Are One
by Francis Frangipane
(Charisma Media, 2009).
Resolving Everyday Conflict
by Ken Sande with Kevin Johnson
(Baker Books, 2011).
Redeeming Church Conflicts
by Tara Klena Barthel & David V. Edling
(Baker Books, 2012).
Peacemaker Ministries: a ministry that equips and assists Christians and churches to respond to conflict biblically.