There are many things that bring people together into a group:
- Business interest
- Benevolence (for example campaigns to raise money for cancer or Aids research)
But we are united into one group because God has separated us from the world and formed a special body of people who all share a special set of characteristics. At Christmas, only some of the presents are for you - in heaven all the gifts are yours. Regardless of their color, language, social position, age, sex or abilities, all Christians share:
- Forgiveness for all sins - Acts 2:38
- Indwelling of the Holy Spirit - Acts 2: 38
- All heavenly blessings - Ephesians 1:3
- Eternal life and glory - John 3:16
So, our unity is not based on whether or not we like the old songs or the new ones whether we're part of the "singles" group or the "teens" or the retired people's group. Our unity is based on the idea that every single one of us is forgiven, Spirit filled, blessed and heaven bound. All other reasons for unity (same age, same taste in music, same culture etc.) may put us in a group and motivate us to stay there but it is the spiritual characteristics that we share that truly make us "united" in Christ. It's that unity that is so joyful and precious.
How Do We Maintain Christian Unity?
The Holy Spirit says,
...how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity!
- Psalm 133
You can be sure, as I said before, that Satan will try hard to destroy any good thing that we enjoy in Christ. So here are some ways we can protect the precious unity that we enjoy:
1. Speak The Truth
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
- Ephesians 4:29
Because lies cause division. Be sincere and honest in what you say. Say it to the one concerned. When we say what's on our hearts directly to the person concerned, we eliminate rumors, gossip, and the bad feelings that result. When we have a problem with someone - go to that person and only that person to solve it. We don't do it cause we're afraid that we might be wrong!
2. Give Honor To Others
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.
- Romans 12:10
Because pride causes division. We are sensitive to make sure that we receive credit for what we do and make sure that we are not overlooked. Paul says we should enthusiastically search for opportunities to give honor and attention to others. When this happens
- The whole church receives honor and no one is left out.
- All have the joy of giving.
- Unity grows because we eliminate those who are constantly offended because they are not receiving the honor they feel they deserve.
Why? They are busy giving others honor, not worried about their own. Of all the signs, this is the clearest sign that one is maturing in Christ. Like babies always cry wanting their needs met right away. The sign of their growth is when they begin to notice others.
It's the same in the church. When you begin feeding others, giving the example to others, encouraging others, serving others → that's when you are beginning to grow. Ask yourself - "Are you carrying the load or are you the load that everyone is carrying?"
Third thing to maintain unity:
3. Bear One Another's Burdens
Because sin causes division. It's easy to understand how we need to help others with their physical needs but division rarely comes because of benevolence - division occurs when we are not able to bear with one another's faults, failures and sins. Paul explains the attitude needed in dealing with another's sins in Galatians 6:1-5.
1Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5For each one will bear his own load.
- Galatians 6:1-5
Vs. 1: Spirit of Gentleness
Kindness and tenderness, think of a new mother. This can be done when you keep your eyes on your own weaknesses before you say one word about another's sins. It will help us not to be harsh with others when we realize how badly we need God's forgiveness ourselves.
Vs. 2-5: Spirit of Humility
Sometimes we are happy when others fall because it proves how good we are in comparison. The key is to compare ourselves to Christ, not others.
- To measure against weaker = pride.
- To measure against stronger = discouragement - jealousy.
Jesus explains the procedure to use when another sins against us in Matthew 18.
15"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Vs. 15 - Go to him alone! Make sure that it is sin, not just something you don't like about someone. Reprove equals convince him of the sin or error. Win back love and unity (This is the objective, no to rub it into their face).
Vs. 16 - After repeated attempts if you cannot convince him of sin - Bring others who can confirm and convince (in love, gentleness, humility).
Vs. 17 - If he refuses 2 or 3 - tell it to the church and let them try to convince him and win him back. If he refuses the church, he is no longer a member of it. (pagans / tax collectors were outside of covenant).
18Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19"Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."
Vs. 18-20 - The authority for this comes from God, belongs to the church - not the preacher, or the elders - notice that it's the "church" that disciplines. This is the way we should discipline in this congregation. If ever you are corrected with this attitude and in this manner you should listen carefully because the Lord Himself is correcting you through His Church. If someone uses another attitude or method that brother is in error and needs himself to be taught.
Our unity in Christ is based on the fact that very different people all share the same spiritual characteristics in Christ. The sweetness of our unity is a result of the Spirit we share, the forgiveness we've all received, the blessings we each possess equally and the common hope of heaven we all look forward to. That's the "thing" that makes being together so special.
We can maintain this wonderful unity if we:
- Are sincere and direct with one another.
- Consider the needs of others before our own.
- Learn how to Biblically help others when they are caught in sin.
Unity is important because there is no stronger witness for or against Christ and His gospel (John 17:20-23).
When I was a kid we moved around so much that I was always the new kid in the neighborhood. Consequently I was never "in" the gang, never quite fitted into the group because there's this unwritten rule about new guys among kids -- they stay new and outside until someone newer comes along.
It's not like that in the Church. In the Church the new guy receives what he needs to become one of the gang right away. Paul explains it this way in Galatians 3:26-28:
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
When you come to Christ in baptism you receive all the characteristics that immediately make you an intimate part of the group. It's as if He says to the gang, "He's with me", and everybody enthusiastically says, "Amen, he's with us too!"
Would you like to be united with Jesus and His Church?
If you've never been baptized then you need to come and acknowledge your faith in Jesus and be immersed in water for the forgiveness of your sins. If you've been baptized the wrong way or for the wrong reasons then you need to obey Jesus and be re-baptized for the right reasons. If you've fallen or fallen away you need to be restored to the unity with Christ and the brethren. If you're new then we'd like you to know that you're welcome to be a part of us Right now!
Remember that Satan's most dangerous strategy is to separate us so he can destroy us one by one. Let's be careful to always maintain our unity in Christ.