Summary: The importance of unity in the church.
In one of my favorite Peanuts cartoons, Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels and then threatens him with her fist if he doesn’t.
"What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus.
"These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."
"I see," says Linus. "In that case, which channel do you want?"
Turning away, Linus then looks at his own fingers and says, "Why can’t you guys get organized like that?" (Bruce Shelley, What is the Church, p. 38. )
There is nothing better than unity! There is a real power and authority with unity. With unity, there is so much you can accomplish.
Take away the unity, and you lose so much!
In the New Testament Lesson from the Book of Acts, there is that wonderful line in chapter 4 verse 32: "All the believers were one in heart and mind."
Isn’t that a great description of a church? Who would NOT want to be a part of a church where everyone was of one heart and mind?
Early in my ministry, I used to attend meetings of a Presbytery in South Carolina. A Presbytery is a geographical area in which all of the Presbyterian congregations gather together to do the work of the larger church that is usually beyond the resources of a single congregation, such as starting new churches, or maintaining nursing homes.
Sometimes, those meetings would include debates that were hot and heavy. Ministers and elders would argue back and forth on all sorts of issues. But at the end of each and every meeting, we had to stand together and hold hands and sing a song.
Yes, they even made ME sing. They couldn’t require me to sing in tune, they didn’t ask for the impossible. They just required me and everyone else to sing a metrical arrangement of Psalm 133:
Behold how good a thing it is
and how becoming well,
together such as brethren are,
in unity to dwell,
in unity to dwell.
There was something about singing that song that helped us to put away all of our differences, join together, and do Christ’s work TOGETHER. We had a since of unity.
St. Paul often wrote churches letters in which he urged people to have a unity of heart and mind.
In his letter to the Romans, chapter 15, verse 5, Paul said, "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth 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."
That is another wonderful verse, "Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you."
We do not always do that in the church. We look around and sometimes we see someone who is Hispanic, or Anglo. Someone who is too white or too black. Someone who is too rich, or too poor. Someone who has an irritating personality. Someone who is too "gung ho" -- or someone who is not passionate enough.
If only we could do as Paul urged us to in Romans, "Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you." Then maybe we could become like that New Testament Church in the Book of Acts in which "All the believers were one in heart and mind."
Shortly after the close of the Civil War, in a fashionable Richmond church, members of the congregation were invited to come to the altar rail to receive Holy Communion.
After several rows of worshipers came and left after receiving Communion side by side, a black man walked down the aisle toward the altar. A tense silence gripped everyone. The Civil War was barely over, and this was a white church in a community of the Deep South. No one else got up to come down to receive the bread and wine, although many had not yet received Communion. The black man started to kneel alone.
Quietly, a tall, graying man with a military bearing stood up and strode down the aisle to the black man’s side. Together, they knelt.
Before the officiating clergyman could continue, people recognized that the person kneeling beside the black man without showing any distinction was General Robert E. Lee. Although Lee said nothing, everyone realized he had shown his faith through his act of joining that lonely black worshiper at the altar.
Lee’s example is an example for all. We must not be content with any system that divides us as fellow Christians. We must seek to demonstrate our essential unity. Only then can we say with honesty that we have become like that New Testament Church in the Book of Acts, in which "All the believers were one in heart and mind."