Summary: Unity in the church is important because it reflects the character of God, it exemplifies what Christ came to do, and it is necessary to the health and growth of the church.
Does it seem to you that people are angrier than they used to be? The unspoken rules of civility that help us all to live together in a society are either unknown or ignored. Violence is seen as an acceptable way of addressing conflicts. People seem less tolerant, more willing to lash out at one another in response to even minor offenses.
It’s all too easy to find examples:
Sports – Michael Costin, 40-year-old single father of four, beaten to death on July 5 in front of his own children at a hockey rink in Reading, Massachusetts. The man who attacked him was reportedly angry because Costin had refused to intervene in a youth hockey game that Junta thought was getting too physical.
Politics – A whole lingo: “going negative,” “attack ads,” “opposition research” (digging up dirt on your opponent). In a 1991 interview, Al Gore reportedly said that to win in politics you have "to rip the lungs out of anybody else who’s in the race."
Television has become increasingly violent. Consider shows like “WWF Smackdown”. In Dallas last July, a seven-year old boy accidentally killed his 3-year-old brother when he imitated a “clothesline” move he had scene on a TV wrestling show. He said his favorite wrestlers were Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker.
“Road Rage”. “Air Rage”. We live in a rage-saturated society. It’s as if the entire population was overdosing on anabolic steroids, adrenaline, and testosterone.
This subject of this morning’s message is “peace and unity.” It’s the third in a series on Building Community in the Church. So how does all this “rage” stuff relate to peace and unity? Here’s how: we need to understand that as we seek to live in peace with one another, we are going against the grain of our society. We are acting counter-culturally. This presents us with a danger and an opportunity.
The danger is that we will be conformed to the world around us; that we will become angry and combative ourselves. If that happens, then we have nothing to offer. The opportunity we have is to relate to one another in peace, and to demonstrate to the world the transforming power of the gospel. We have the opportunity to shine as light in the darkness.
Why now? After all, things seem pretty peaceful. Harmonious. It’s not as if someone is likely to mistake one of our Sunday morning service for an episode of the Jerry Springer show. Are there battles going on in the church that we don’t know about? Are there controversies brewing?
No, not at all. God has blessed us with an unusual degree of unity. Part of that is due to the fact that we print our mission, vision, and core values on the back of every bulletin. We’re unified around those purposes. But an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. I’d rather preach proactively to strengthen unity than try to restore it after it’s been broken. Also, these principles on living in peace and harmony can also apply to families, marriages, work situations – anywhere that you have imperfect people relating to one another.
1. Why is unity important?
We are commanded to live in unity with one another as followers of Christ.
“Live in harmony with one another. . . . If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:16, 18
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.” – Romans 15:5
The unity of God’s people reflects the character of God.
“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” – 1 Corinthians 14:33
Our behavior tells the world what our “Father” is like. We are the only Bible many people will ever read. And our God is a God of peace, not disorder or confusion.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:22-23
The Greeks and Romans had a pantheon of gods, who were anything but unified. They fought, bickered, plotted against one another. But our God is a unity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all in complete agreement, with a single will and purpose. Our unity with one another should reflect the unity within the three members of the Trinity.
Our unity also reflects what Christ came to do. He came to bring reconciliation between God and man, by removing the cause of God’s wrath against us – our sin. He also came to reconcile Jews and Gentiles, to break down the barriers between races.