Unity

Psalm 133 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.  It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

One of the real sadnesses that I have is about how we as Christians (denominations and individual fellowships, as well as individual people) do not work together.  We can tend to be so busy in our own little garden, we forget about the big picture. We get so focused on being right, and by default saying everyone else is wrong. We get so focused on our little piece of the kingdom that we forget that there is a big kingdom of God, of which we are merely a small part.

Story: Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!" He said, "Nobody loves me." I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"
He said, "Yes." I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too! What franchise?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!"
Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over. 
We may laugh but often, as an excuse, it is said “well I don’t agree with how they do that, or what they believe or so on”, but we are reminded that unity and harmony is not about us using the same instrument. In a choir, we are not all singing the same note, but we are all singing the same song.  An orchestra is made up of percussion and strings and wind, and the triangle is just as important to the overall sound as the tuba or first violin, even if they are handled differently.

Jesus recognized this fault finding and divisive tendency of humans so in his final prayer for the disciples, he focused on unity.

John 17:20 “I ask not only on behalf of these [here with me], but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

It is sad that Jesus even had to pray this, but he is a great judge of character because that is exactly what we are like.

We can blame the tribalism feature of postmodernism, or we can blame the “It’s all about me” mentality of people but it is in our nature.  We see it in the breakup of large states into ethnic groupings, we see it in our kids –metaller, grunge, emo, rappers, and other tribal groups. We see it in the proliferation of denominations.

The story is told of a man shipwrecked by himself on an island and when he was rescued, his rescuers noticed 2 buildings on his atoll. When asked, he pointed to one and said that was the church he went to, and when asked about the other, he said that was the church he used to go to!

We are quick to find differences that we claim are bottom line differences, but they are normally not so, they are just us being us, liking what we like and hating what we do not like.



But, genuine and biblical unity is found in the midst of real and passionate differences that we set aside in recognition that the differences we have are nowhere as important as the King we serve. 

Charles Simeon, preacher from the 1600s reminds us that “instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.”  

We have a chance this month to exhibit unity between churches, in the Southern Fire Revival meetings.

I wonder how many of the 54 Christian fellowships in Invercargill will come together to exhibit that it is God’s kingdom that we are part of and not our own little patch, whatever name or denomination we adhere to.

The goal of the unity of believers with each other and with God is twofold: (a) that the world will believe in the Son’s divine mission (know that You sent Me), and (b) that the world will sense that God’s love for believers is deep, intimate, and lasting as is His love for His unique Son (cf. v. 26). 

It’s not about me and my preferences and the ways I like doing church, it’s about Jesus and bringing people into the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of Chris.
We may disagree with other believers over when and how Christ will return, or over the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or over how much water makes a proper baptism; or what songs are appropriate, or which translation is more godly but as long as we are united in the primary gospel truths, we have the unity that Christ was praying about.   
Spiritual unity should already exist because at Pentecost the Spirit came down and a spiritual unity was established among different groups of new believers. Paul wrote there is no longer slave nor free, male nor female etc.  Yet we love to create division and barriers between people, even amongst those who love the Lord.
Unity is not the total absence of conflict. Unity is agreeing with your adversary while you are walking together. 

But Biblical unity is a fragile thing and can be destroyed by selfishness; conversely it can be created by self less ness. 

So ask yourself: How selfless am I?  How much do I want the Kingdom of God to succeed in Invercargill?  Can I celebrate when other churches do things that we do not or can not?  Can I join with them in those things, or does it have to be all about this place and this denomination?

God’s kingdom grows when the diversity of the kingdom is celebrated.

Do you love jigsaws?  Do you like ones which arer all one colour (and entire jigsaw of cloudless blue sky?) or do you like the colours and shapes and detail?

Environmentalists tell us that planting a huge area in one crop, whether that is fields of wheat or vast pine plantations of the same variety is bad for the environment.  It promotes disease and lacks biodiversity to withstand change.

That same biodiversity is needed in the kingdom of God.  We need the other churches; we need the other expressions of kingdom, in order to be strong.

Difference does not mean that I am right and you are wrong, but rather that we together create the picture of the Kingdom of God.

When part of the body fights against another part of the body, we call it cancer and we cut it out, we hit it with chemo and radiation to kill it before it kills us.

Yet we do that in church all the time.  The church has in the past been in active warfare against other parts of the kingdom. Protestant vs Catholic. Lutheran vs Ana Baptists. Anglican vs reformed and so on and so forth.  That is not ok. That is destructive. It is not god honouring.

Unity is also based upon the authentic life. Jesus expected that this unity would have the appropriate expression of shared love (v. 23). Christians are different people from different backgrounds with different experiences and different personalities who have been given different gifts and yet we are called together into a spiritual family to express their supernatural unity. Where else could such a thing happen? Where else in the world could you find such diversity unified by such love? That’s why the Christian family is such an important and remarkable expression of the gospel. 

Can you imagine the damage done to the Kingdom of darkness if all Christians stood shoulder to shoulder with other Christians?  Instead we play into the hands of the enemy by showing our disunity.

We have an opportunity this week to show unity.  The Southern Fire Revival meetings are not Baptist, they are not Eastside, they are interdenominational.  We can be part of showing the world what it means to be a Christian. We can be unified for Christ, even if it is only for this week.