Summary: Unity of Spirit is important. It is powerful enough to stop division, empower a church and hold believers on task. Taking our eyes off of Christ is a sure fire way to invite division, discord and eventually demise.
Have you ever heard of the term ‘Divide et impera’ (Latin)? It turns out, you have, just in a different language. That Latin term, is translated into English and it says, ‘Divide and Conquer’. It is a military, economic and mathematical term. Its definition is ‘a method to gain or keep power from another”. Do you know who else knows of this term and strategy? Well it turns out, everybody. The British have used it, the Chinese use it, Mexico has used it, Russia uses it, and it works so well, that many governments use it. Even our own government uses it. Basically if you can divide a people over small differences, they are much easier to control or to overcome. You can break up a people group by dividing them on how they look, or how they think, or how much money they have, instead of who they are opposed to. If you ever noticed, even in the Bible, Persia and Babylonia use it to defeat Israel, and keep them defeated. Well guess what? The Devil uses it in churches and countries around the world, even today!
And that is the topic for today. Destroying unity. Unity is what we want, at least it is what we are supposed to want. It is what we are called to in scripture. We heard one of those verses earlier, in Romans 15. Another of those verses we heard last week in Nehemiah. But unity is not always easy. Last week we talked about putting others and their needs before our own. That is a good way to unity. But even then, there are disagreements. The problem is, for every person that wishes to see and exhibit unity with their Christian brothers and sisters, there is another person, trying to cause arguments, spreading rumors, engaging in gossip, instigating arguments. There are many reasons that people do this. Maybe they want the attention, maybe they want to be seen as the peacemaker, or want to be the powerful person in the group.
As churches break up, as they stop growing, as people leave and others get disgusted, the issues are not usually even important or serious. I once watched a church split, because some people in the congregation thought the Pastor used too much hair dye, and others didn’t have a problem with it. Just to show you that these petty things happen today, and happened even back in biblical times, we can read there in Romans 16:17-18, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people”.
In this case, Paul is trying to warn everyone, there is one main thing in church. There are many things we can learn, but only one focus. Jesus Christ. His examples, His lessons, and His Love, but always him. Is it a focus in church, what time the meetings start? Nope. Is it a focus of the church, to choose the color of the curtains, or who plays in the band, or what version of scripture is being read. Jesus Christ should always be the focus. And as it turns out, the Devil knows that rule too.
Let’s go back to our verse for the day, for just a moment, Romans 15:5-7 says, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God”.
Of course, the church has rules, and traditions, and principles that it follows, but if those aren’t broken, if the issues aren’t illegal, or immoral, there should be unity. Now, notice I didn’t say that everyone would agree on everything. God made us all different, for many reasons. Usually differences can be and should be a blessing that we all can enjoy. Different songs to sing, different foods to eat. Different people to talk to, different places to visit, it goes on and on. But what about the times when we disagree? You may be wondering, what does the Bible say about that? Well, I am glad you asked. Because it turns out, it does talk about those times too. I’ll read that in just a minute. What happens if I disagree with the food that is being eaten by someone else, what if I see their habit of eating pork, or sugary foods or Italian food, or American food. What if I think it is unclean, or just a bad choice? Romans 14:19-22 speaks directly to you and I, when it says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves”. But do you get the big picture? What if this example isn’t about food, what if it is about the language of the sermon, or the number of songs that are sung by the band. What if it is about how people are dressed in the service? As it turns out we can still use that scripture verse we just read. Do we make every effort to do what leads to peace with others? Or down to verse 22, do we keep what we believe in our thoughts, between us and God? Or what about taking the advice from our scripture focus we heard earlier? Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you? Well I know I was pretty beat up, broken, a sinner, and not deserving when Christ accepted me. I will assume we are all that way. And he accepted me, even died for me. Did He say, I have to change the schedule at church first? Did He say I have t speak Hebrew, or Greek, because that is what He was comfortable with? Did He say that I need to sing the songs that He likes? ….. No He didn’t He said, I died for you, now live for me.