“Can’t we all just get along?” I’m sure you have thought this or heard this at some point. I know my mother had to think it when she struggled with the conflicts between me and my eight siblings. Maybe you’re tempted to think it when you are watching any news network these days…or perhaps in looking at conflicts in our churches, even with calls from God over and over to pursue unity.
I think it’s easy for young people especially to idealize unity in their minds before they start to really experience all the nuances of the conflicts of life. As we age and gain experience, we rightly come to realize that unity is virtually impossible with such a broken species. This can cause those with more experience to grow cynical and to even stop pursuing unity, except maybe with their own small, like-minded tribe.
This should not be so for the Christian, but sadly, even with all the commands and warnings in Scripture against disunity, we are still almost indistinguishable from the world in terms of our unity. Some of the most bitter struggles come between those bearing the name of Christ. We have all seen it. Whether it is Christian children fighting over an inheritance, or a church unable to set aside personal preferences and desires for the sake of our mission.
I am someone who generally tries to stay out of the muck of polarizing Facebook or Twitter discussions. I just do not really see any benefit to the discussions in those formats. I broke my rule a while ago when I saw a post laying out the political divide in our country. This post condemned the conflict and said, “We all need to unify to make the world a better place.” Not many people could argue with that statement, right? Who does not want less conflict and a better world? I still had to ask what seemed like the obvious question, “Unify around what?”
When talking about unity, this always needs to be the question. It is easy to throw out statements calling for peace and unity, but those things require a unifying principle. In this country, in years gone by, we could generally unify around our founding principles: “We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” These and other principles were ideas that we could all unify around. This seems like a great center point for a nation, but as a church what is our center of unity and what can we unify around?
Just as our best hope for unity as a country is found in our founding principles, this is even more true in the Church of God. So, what are the essential principles that we must accept in order to have unity? Namely this, our hope. And our hope has a name, and His name is Jesus Christ. It is important though, that we know who the true Jesus is. If we do not, then our unity will be a mirage because the only true hope for finding unity rests in the objective truth claims of Jesus, both in who He says He is and what He has done.
We must not unify for unity’s sake. We must all pick up our cross and follow Him, and when we are truly pursuing Christ, we will find unity with the other believers who have chosen to do the same. Those who have chosen to do as Paul says in Philippians 2, specifically, “Let each of you esteem others as better than self.” The first mark that Jesus said would characterize His disciples would be their love for one another. Is your life characterized by that love? If it’s not, you will never achieve the unity that Christ calls us to have.