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?
There has been a tendency of our society that seems to be more apparent now than ever. Perhaps, it has always been there, and is just more noticeable now due to the speed of information and public way we live our lives. This tendency causes us to be rude, demanding, and, at times, downright childish. The tendency is to believe that the way we think is the right way to think. It’s the idea that says, “I have the right to be right because, well, I am right!” It’s very easy to get caught up thinking this way.
How often does someone say something like, “I just don’t understand how they could do that! They must not have been thinking,” or, “if only they could see what they are doing, they would change.” In these and the many variations of these statements that are spoken regularly, the main point is simplified as, “if they would just think the way I do, it would all be good.” This is one of the reasons we have such a hard time with the fact that we are at war against terror.
After all, if everyone could just agree and get along, the world would be a better place, right? Sure, but it would also be a very boring uninspiring existence as well. If every tree, rock, hill, etc looked the same, we would stay right where we are and never explore.
Christianity is not immune to this.
Even in the Kingdom of God, the disagreements among us are a sign to the uniqueness and wonderful diversity of who we have been created to be. God intentionally made us different. Because of that there will be some friction. There will be some uncomfortable situations. There will even be personality conflicts. All of this is good, because it brings needed change and growth and it refines each of us. A life without conflict and resistance is a weak life. We need each other and we need the differences among us, even when those differences get a little tense. We should put more energy into guiding and properly utilizing conflict than we do into trying to erradicate it.
We will disagree. But, we can still be unified.
The unity comes from our purpose. It stems from the fact that we serve the same God who gave each of us the same commands. He celebrates our diversity, though not our disunity. No, we definitely don’t have to always get along. We do have to love each other. That means we allow for the differences of opinion and ways of doing things. It means we don’t assume the worst of others. It means we cover for one another. It means we move forward under the banner of Christ with the singular purpose to make Him known to those far from God.
Paul and Barnabas did not get along at one point and parted company. Yet, they remained unified in purpose. So much so, that Mark, the young whom the original dispute centered around, ended up joining Paul again later and went on to write one of the four Gospels.
Showing love, means we give each other grace and the benefit of the doubt. We keep our disputes private as much as we can, though this is not always possible or appropriate. We work together until the whole world knows of Christ and His saving power. It does not mean that we must always get along.
We need to strive to make sure that our differences and disagreements do not become hindrances. This is especially true when those differences center around the “hows” and “whens” of ministry, outreach, etc. You will do something differently than I will, awesome! Just because we are different doesn’t mean we are opposed.
Someone asked me once what I have against people who wear ties to church. My response was, “Nothing.” Anyone who wants to wear a tie to church should wear a tie to church. I don’t believe I’ve ever told anyone not to. I just don’t wear them. This person assumed that because I did something different than they did that I was opposed to the way they did those things. Sounds ridiculous when typed out, yet is happening all around us as debates and divides happen every day over similarly trivial issues. I choose the tie as a simple and easy thing to point out. There are countless other things taht apply here.
We will not get along, yet we are commanded to love. In love and in purpose we can be unified even when we disagree.
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