The Power of Christian Unity
Since becoming a Christian at the age of 19, I’ve always loved it when the church expresses its God-given unity. God loves it too! In Psalm 133 He says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
Unity here refers to harmony; the opposite is disarray, confusion and chaos. I’ve been to churches like that – and workplaces and families. It’s not a pretty sight. But unity doesn’t equal uniformity. “Harmony” is a musical term that refers to different notes being played or sung together. When the right notes are heard together there is harmony and it sounds great. But when the wrong notes are played together you get discord and that sounds like nails scraping down a blackboard. Unity doesn’t mean that we’re all the same it just means that we “play well together!”
The result of unity is always blessing (something that makes you happy, contented and joyful). The Psalmist says that unity “is like precious oil poured on the head … running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.” Anointing with oil was common on festivals and joyous occasions. In Scripture oil has become a symbol of joy, abundance and fragrance. The abundance of aromatic oil would fill the whole atmosphere with a magnificent aroma. Unity in a church, a workplace or a family brings joy and smells great!
So unity is like oil and it’s also like dew: “It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.” Mount Hermon is the highest point in Israel (over 2,200 metres above sea level). Mount Zion on the other hand is just a small hill. By implication a big mountain would naturally receive a larger amount of dew than a small hill, but “when God’s people live together in unity … it is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.” The blessing outweighs the size; there is abundance.
It’s there in the place of unity that God bestows or commands His blessing; and it’s a command that will be carried out! You live under the commanded blessing of God when you live in unity with those around you. And so, “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Rom 12:18).
Unity doesn’t mean that we all agree on everything. It doesn’t mean that we’re all the same. It means that we work through the issues, we choose to love each other despite our differences and we focus on the things we have in common: we are redeemed by the same Saviour; we serve the same Master; we cherish the same hope; we’re looking forward to the same heaven; we’re subject to the same trials, temptations, and sorrows; we have the same comfort and we’re focused in the same direction.
Unity was so important to Jesus that He prayed for the unity of His Church (John 13 and 17). But when we look around at much of the church today, it would be easy to get the idea that Jesus doesn’t always get His prayers answered. Christians in local congregations often have trouble getting along together; to say nothing of reaching across denominational, stylistic and doctrinal boundaries. How tragic this is when we consider the power of unity and love amongst believers:
“That the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
“To let the world know that you sent me and have loved them …” (John 17:23)
“All men will know that you are my disciples that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Christian unity is the single most powerful key in reaching people with the Good News of Jesus. The world around us is supposed to get an understanding of how much God loves them by looking at the way God’s people love one another. No wonder unity has been so ferociously attacked over the centuries; no wonder it’s so hard to encourage God’s people to gather in unity.
I am under no illusion that this blog will cause the whole church to suddenly unite in answer to Jesus’ prayer; but maybe some of this will be food for thought that will cause us to look again at the power of unity.
Rob Buckingham is the senior minister of Bayside Church, Melbourne Australia.
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