The church of America has struggled for a long time with the issue of unity. One of the main causes of this is our various denominational doctrinal stances. There has been countless and very public instances where these differences have turned ugly. Most people are fine with the mantra, “agree to disagree” and then move on from there willing to focus on areas of agreement.
More recently, the divides have been over differences of style and equating holiness to the way some things are done. This has caused even more confusion as two sides who agree doctrinally don’t agree stylistically and both incite God’s Word as their defense.
Both of these divisions can be very harmful as God’s Word clearly calls us to unity under the Great Commission to reach those far from God.
Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets have opened all of this up to whole new dimensions.
I read a few dozen blogs regularly and the conversations taking place there are usually civil and well thought out with both sides having some valid points, as is often the case. Rarely is one side completely off base. One that is generating much attention right now over the decision of a former pastor brought up the question I asked as the title. I won’t reference the pastor’s situation any further here as there is plenty of time and space devoted to it. In one of the comments on one of the blogs discussing it, someone brought up the idea of unity and getting along.
As I read scripture, it doesn’t seem that God’s people have ever gotten along well. For simplicity, I’ll just bring up the New Testament starting with the disciples themselves WHILE they were with Jesus. Mark 9 references an argument about who was greatest. In Matthew 16, they couldn’t even agree on who they thought Jesus was. Matthew 20 again has them upset over position. In Mark 16 Jesus rebukes them for not believing each other in the reports of His resurrection. John 3 has John’s disciples arguing with a man over who can baptize. John 6 has His disciples grumbling (again) and many parted ways. John 11 shows a disagreement about travel plans and Thomas (yes, that Thomas) rises against the others and proclaims, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” These are just some of the recorded instances.
Of course there are the famous instances between Paul & Barnabas in Acts 15 and Paul and Peter in Galatians 2. Not to mention that much of Paul’s writings to the churches, particularly in Corinth and Ephesus, were to clear up disagreements and misunderstandings.
The church has not always gotten along. Jesus did say, that we must love another. That is even the distinction for the world to know we are His.
If we are to achieve unity do we have to get along? Does unity require us to like everyone who is a Christian and for us to agree? Does having love for one another mean that we are nice and non-confrontational with each other? Is confrontation and disagreement judgment?
We all understand the simple answer to be “no”. In the next post, we’ll go beyond the simple answers.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts?