Summary: A message of building unity within the church and community.
Becoming a Community Church—We Must Be Unified
16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Former pastor Eric Daniel Harris, 37, pled guilty to the November 1996 arson that burned down the Kentucky Missionary Baptist Church in Saline County, Arkansas. According to a federal prosecutor, Harris said he did it because "there was a division among church members, and they needed a project to unify them." --News of the Weird, March 30, 2000
Working together, cooperation, striving in harmony; this is the idea that Pastor Harris was attempting to convey when he burned the church down. Now, I’m not suggesting that we need to go looking for some gasoline and a packet of matches. I am suggesting that we need to be unified in all that we do. I’m suggesting that a lack of unity will kill our church, and halt our mission.
A joke from stand-up Emo Phillips ...
"Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don’t do it!"
He said, "Nobody loves me."
I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?"
He said, "A Christian."
I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?"
He said, "Protestant."
I said, "Me, too! What denomination?"
He said, "Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912."
I said, "Die, heretic scum!", and pushed him off the bridge."
This joke highlights how ridiculous we get sometimes. While it is certainly funny, it is extremely sad at the same time. This sort of infighting and bickering keeps us from being as effective as we can be for the Kingdom of God.
1. Unity is IMPORTANT!
Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, commanded us to practice unity. Verse 16 of our text says “16Be of the same mind toward one another….” Then in verse 18 he expands on this by saying “18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
Paul tells us twice in our text that we are to be unified. So why is unity so important? It is because rivalries and disagreements among brethren are destructive. Disunity damages goodwill, trust and peace, three of the foundational elements of good human relations. Disharmony hampers our progress toward important goals. When we are at odds with our brother we become self-centered rather than love-centered.
How we act is a reflection on our relationship with the Father.
“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” – 1 Corinthians 14:33
Our behavior in our everyday actions tells the world what God is like. We are a sermon in shoes, sometimes the only sermon that people will ever hear. If we are not unified, we do a disservice to God by portraying a negative and erroneous picture of who He is.
Unity is necessary for the growth of our church. It is difficult for a church to survive the slings of the enemy, but impossible to survive when we mis-identify the enemy!
Before Andrew Jackson became the seventh president of the United States, he served as a major general in the Tennessee militia. During the War of 1812 his troops reached an all-time low level in morale. As a result, they began arguing, bickering, and fighting among themselves.
It is reported that Jackson called them together on one occasion when tensions were at their worst and said, "Gentlemen! Let’s remember, the enemy is over there."
What an appropriate word for the church today. Some Christians behave as though their fellow brothers and sisters are "the enemy." Let us remember who our Enemy really is. Let us stop infighting, and instead pull together, support one another, believe in one another, care for one another, and pray for one another.
Source: Charles Swindoll, Hope Again, Word 1996, p. 45.
2. What is Unity?
If unity is so important that Christ would talk about it, and Paul would make it a central theme of some of his letters to the churches, what is it? Let’s begin with what it is not. Unity doesn’t mean you will not have disagreements. It does not mean that everyone will always agree, because that is just not going to happen. Not in this church, not in any church.