Summary: The first century Christians at Rome struggled with unity in their Christian community, the church of today does too. If are to accomplish the mission of Christ, Christians must work together in unity as one mind, one heart.
Love and Unity in the Community
INTRO: A man said: I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I immediately ran over and said, “Stop! Don’t jump!”
“Why shouldn’t I?” he said. I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” “Like what?”
“Well ... are you religious or atheist?” “Religious.” “Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?” “Christian.”
“Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” “Protestant.” “Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?” “Baptist.”
“Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?” “Baptist Church of God.”
“Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God.”
“Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!” To which I said, “Die, you heretic scum!” and pushed him off.
Have you ever had an issue with another brother or sister in Christ? If you said no to this question, I would suggest that you are not being completely truthful. I don’t know of any Christian who hasn’t had an issue with another Christian.
However getting along with one another is an important part of the Christian life. Jesus prayed for the unity of believers in John 17:20-23 in which He prayed in verse 20, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” And in verse 23, “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.”
It’s important to have unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ so that the world may come to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without this unity we find the world in confusion of who Jesus really is and just how us having a relationship with Him would make their life any better.
If those who are Christian can’t get along, then why would any non-Christian have a desire to be a Christian. Their life has enough problems already and to them, if Christians don’t get along, why would they want to add that to their lives?
In our text today Paul is telling the Christians at Rome to accept each other. The weak accept the strong and the strong accept the weak. To the Corinthian church Paul condemned the division among Christians in 1 Cor. 1:10, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
But unity doesn’t come easily. It didn’t come easily in the early church and it doesn’t come easily for the church today.
In the early church the Jewish Christian were reluctant to accept the Gentile Christians, Acts. 15:1-5 and the knowledgeable Christians weren’t always considerate as seen in 1 Cor. 8:10-12.
In the church today there are people from all different kinds of religious backgrounds which at times cause strife and divisions. Some come from no religious background and come with backgrounds of certain sins that are appealing to many long time Christians. Sometimes those in the church don’t want to accept those who have tattoos, or body piercing, or maybe those who just kind of look different to them. You name it and many times us Christians can have a problem with almost anything.
ILLUS: The story is told of two struggling churches in a small town who decided it would be better for the two churches to join together so they could make one strong church however the merger never happen. The people in the church had a controversy over the Lord’s Prayer.
One group preferred, “forgive us our trespasses” while the other group preferred, “forgive us our debts.” Because of this they two churches didn’t join into one church. Eventually both churches ended up closing.
Christians often get into disputes over things that really are meaningless, things that are not salvation issues and the church becomes unappealing to those outside the church and to many in the church, as I said last week, millions of Christians have left the church in the last 20 years.
Most, if not all of our issues arise when we talk about “what” we believe rather that in “whom” we believe.
ILLUS: In the Holman New Testament Commentary on Romans it says, “Generally speaking, when Christians get their focus off the center of their faith, Jesus Christ, and get it onto peripheral matters, disunity sets in. On the mission field, where the greatest priority is telling people about Jesus, it is much easier to stay focused than it is in congregations where evangelism and discipleship have lost their priority. Once institutionalism sets in, the church finds lots of things to disagree about.”