by Angela Wisdom
Psalm 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Anyone who has seen the unity of the church or home disrupted knows how true this statement is! Jesus prayed for UNITY in John 17: 20 – 21. He prayed that all who believe in Him be one.
Being united may be one of the hardest things for us to do as Christians, but it is most necessary if we are to please God. Unity must begin with our physical, earthly family if unity is to be accomplished within our spiritual family, and if it is to be accomplished with God.
DANGERS TO UNITY
As we work toward unity we are to avoid dangers to unity. One danger is that of forgetting God (Psa 50:22 ESV) “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! When we forget God, we are too busy to study, too busy to do the work of the church, too busy to pray, or too busy to talk about divine things with our children. In other words, we’re just too busy!
Failing to teach our children is a danger to unity; failing to teach them that God is creator of all things, failing to teach them what is moral and immoral, failing to teach them God’s plan of salvation, and failing to teach them about Christ’s church – these are all dangers to unity.
Neglecting Christ’s church is a danger to unity. Faithful children of God will be in faithful service to Christ’s church. When we are faithful to Christ and His church then our home will be united as God wants it to be.
Neglecting discipline of our children is a danger to unity. God gave us a general rule in Proverbs 22:6 because family members must be devoted to the family’s unity. (Prov. 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. ) Does this mean ALL children will obey if this is followed? No. But it does mean that most do. Each individual child has to decide if they will go in the way they have been trained, and if they will be in unity with God’s will. Parents cannot do this for them. And godly parents hope that if the child is trained to serve God, that even if he does depart he will come back to what he knows is right later on.
Jealousy and Envy are dangers to unity. It was because of envy that Christ was delivered to Pilate (Matt. 27:18). Acts 7:9 tells us that it was because of envy that Joseph’s brothers sold him into Egypt. Rom. 1:29 includes envy in the list of things worthy of death.
So, are we happy when we see our brethren prosper and we don’t? Jealousy and envy can prevent our happiness and cause a danger to unity in the Lord’s body. Being happy for others has to be cultivated in ourselves and our children. For instance – If we see a brother invites another brother into his home, are we happy that they are getting to know one another, or are we jealous that we were not invited? Do we teach our children to be happy for them, or do we allow them to complain, and complain with them?
If we see one of our brethren or sisters gives another a gift, however small, and they do not give us one, are we happy for them, or are we jealous that we didn’t receive one, and either stew about it, or confront them wanting to know why?
By the same token, don’t do things to cause jealousy and envy among your brethren. We live in an age where people think they need to tell everything that goes on in their lives. People use Social Media to tell everyone everything. But, sometimes we need to keep things to ourselves, knowing that some brethren could be tempted to have envy or jealousy in their hearts. We don’t need to put a stumbling block before them.
There are many things that are dangers to unity and destroy peace and unity in the home and in the church. The few things in this article are not all-comprehensive.
A UNITY NOT PLEASING TO GOD
There are some kinds of unity that God doesn’t want us to have. Sometimes people have unity or peace with what is immoral in the home and in the church. I Corinthians 5 tells us of a congregation who had unity, but their unity allowed immorality in their midst. Eph. 5:11 tells us that we cannot have unity with that which is sinful : “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them”.
Some have unity with false doctrine, but this kind of unity is displeasing to God . Paul told Titus what must be done to those who destroy unity in the Lord’s church because of doctrinal error. Titus 1: 11 – 13 tells us that they must be “silenced”, and to “rebuke them sharply”.
Some think they can have unity by compromising with error, but Paul opposed Peter when Peter tried to do this very thing (Gal. 2: 11 -14).
HOW TO HAVE UNITY:
So, how do we have unity in our family and in the Lord’s church?? We know Jesus prayed for it (John 17:11, 20 – 21). Do we pray for it??
We know that Paul pleaded for it (Eph. 4:3, 13).
First of all, we must agree that our standard for agreement to be united must be GOD’S STANDARD, not ours! (John 12:48; I Pet. 4:11; 2 John 1:9)
Many times we understand this standard for the Lord’s church, but we misunderstand it in the training and discipline of our children. All of us have seen children who wreck and destroy unity and peace in the home, whether they are 2 years old or 20 years old or more.
Self-discipline is necessary for maintaining unity in our physical family. This self-discipline must be taught to children, and plays a necessary part in maintaining spiritual unity as well.
Children must learn to obey authority (Col 3:20). When a child doesn’t obey his parents, he will not obey God either. Learning to submit to one’s parents prepares the child for submission to God. His obedience brings happiness, peace, unity, and security to the family. Children who are out of control, no matter the age, destroy the unity of a family. We teach our children to obey God when we teach them to obey us. The riots, rebellion, and school shootings of our day are all a result of a lack of self-discipline, and have resulted in the lack of unity in our country and homes.
(Sometimes though, self-discipline is taught to a child, and the child through his own rebellious will, and through the influence of bad companions, will disobey parents, destroying unity in the home. But, I’m afraid far too many parents have NOT taught self-discipline, resulting in chaos and disunity.)
Parents can teach unity by having a united front to their children. Children are good at picking up on when Mama and Daddy disagree with one another, and they will pit one parent against the other if given the chance. Don’t disagree on how to discipline them in their presence. Discuss this in private and then present a united front to the child.
Sometimes, instead of enforcing our rules or commands, we allow our children to continue in disobedience, and nag and coax them, instead of taking charge and taking care of the discipline right away. Children know when this is done also, and will take advantage.
We cannot expect out of our children what we are not willing to do ourselves. Are we self-disciplined in the things we allow ourselves to do and say. Or do we teach our children a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of life before them? If we want self-disciplined children, we must exhibit self-discipline before them.
(At times though, a parent has done everything he knows to do that is right and the child still creates unrest in the home. The same can be true of how members behave in the Lord’s church.)
UNITY MUST BE WORKED FOR AND ENDEAVORED FOR
All of us must learn that UNITY IS NOT SOMETHING THAT JUST HAPPENS, but that unity is only accomplished when each and every person is working for it. We have to endeavor to have unity, (Eph. 4:3 --Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace).
This means, we may have to forebear one another in matters of indifference (Eph. 4:2). “FORBEAR” means to: put up with, endure, or suffer. Do we “forbear” others in matters of indifference? Or is our attitude, “It’s my way or the highway”, or “If I don’t get my way I’ll pick up my marbles and go home”? Do we say, “Well, I’m not putting up with that!”
We live in a day when people “want their rights”. But, having unity is not all about me, and me having my rights and my way. To be like Jesus, we are to look to the ways of others as Jesus did. Jesus told us in Matthew 5: 38 – 42 that “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. ; And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. ; And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. In other words, we are to do what we can to get along with others, even taking a loss to ourselves. This is completely foreign to what the majority of society does today.
If we love our physical family and our spiritual family there are times we have to forbear to have unity. We may have to overlook a perceived slight to keep unity. This means that we will take the loss, and we will put our own feelings aside in order to have unity. We’ll be the first to admit a wrong or make an apology, even if we think we are in the right. This is hard to do, is it not?
We all have to realize that to get along with our brethren (and even people who are not our brethren ) , sometimes we have to take the loss – we have to “turn the other cheek”, or “let him have our cloak”, or “go the two miles”. For the sake of UNITY, and the sake of the Kingdom of God, there may be many times we have to take a loss to restore a relationship with a brother, or just to get along with him.
This tends to go against the grain, especially in the day and time we live in. But, we have to keep in mind who we are, and where we are going. God’s ways are not like our ways. If we want that crown of life, we cannot always have “our rights” or “our way”, or have what “we want”.
Is it hard at times – especially when we think we have been wronged? – YES! Do we want to be like Jesus?? The answer to this question determines how much we want Unity.
The devil would have us dwell on some things and build them up in our own mind – going over and over how we’ve been wronged, or how right we are, and telling others. Many times we like to take out our grudges against others and nurse them and make them bigger than they are, when what we need to do is LET THEM GO and PUT THEM BEHIND us.
To have unity, we’ll have love for Christ’s church and the souls of others. Do we, as Christ did, look to please our neighbor, to build him up (Rom. 15: 2 – 3), and put ourselves in their shoes, figuratively speaking?
A WORD OF CAUTION
Compromise of God’s word to keep peace and unity is NOT true unity! True unity is doing all things in spirit and in truth, – or doing the right things in the right manner (John 4: 23 – 24). When we want unity, we’ll realize that true Unity is adhering to God’s Word.
We must not, and cannot, compromise God’s truth in the Lord’s family or in our physical family in order to have a false unity. Sin is what destroys unity. As we see in I Cor. 5 – the church at Corinth overlooked sin to have a false unity. This is wrong. Paul told Corinth in I Cor. 5:7 that they had to cleanse out the old leaven – or get rid of the sin. Holding on to sin keeps us from being united.
There are people in the Lord’s church who hold to the doctrine of “unity in diversity” – basically this means they overlook doctrinal error in order to get along with their brethren. This is the wrong way to have unity, and not the unity Christ wants in His church.
There are women who will overlook sin in their own family in order to have “unity” or peace. I’ve known women who were willing to overlook fornication on the part of their husbands, and in the lives of their children, to overlook bad behavior and other sins (such as disrespect, immodest dress, drinking, cursing, smoking, drug usage, etc.) done by their family members, simply to “keep the peace” and have unity. This is not real unity. This kind of unity is a false unity and is wrong, and is as sinful as the sin that has been overlooked. We have to stand for what is right according to God. His word unites, but it is also a sword that divides when sin is involved (Heb. 4:12).
Can we overlook and compromise to have unity on matters of judgment and opinion? – Yes. But we cannot compromise on matters of sin or doctrine. Make sure that the unity we have in the Lord’s church, and in our family, is not a false unity simply because we have overlooked and tried to cover up sin.
As I used to hear Bro. Bob Waldron say, “Until we are more concerned with what God wants, than what we want, we’ll not be what God wants us to be.” Let’s work toward maintaining the kind of unity God wants.