In the last post we started looking at what unity is (and isn't.) Unity is a high value, extremely important to Jesus. Unity is to be concerned with mission and purpose. Unity is not, though, uniformity or unanimity. God created us as individuals. So while unity is a value of the community of Jesus followers we call the church, it is not necessary that unity be expressed through a robotic uniformity, or expressed without some level of disagreement about particulars. As my wife says, "if we're all the same, why do I need you?"
We can find some sense of clarity about unity when we look at marriage. In the marriage relationship we give of ourselves for the greater good of the marriage -- but we never lose our distinctive identities. The picture this presents demonstrates a unity between two individuals which is instructive for those of us in the church.
In both the church and a marriage unity keeps things on the right track. A marriage of unity grows deeper and stronger. On the other hand, disunity stalls or reverses growth. I can't grow closer to my wife if I'm walking a different direction from her.
Why is disunity such a problem? Frankly, it's because disunity is always a matter of flipping the Kingdom upside down. The church - as with all our relationships - is to be characterized by humility and looking to the betterment of others above yourself. In disunity we find instead pride, arrogance, self-concern. People don't humbly serve others by trying to force their way. Disunity brings about the exact opposite of what we're looking for.
In marriage, this manifests itself in selfishness, adultery, secrets, mistrust and/or anger. When spouses have competing goals and purposes for the marriage, the relationship cannot move forward. This is one reason that Paul instructs us to "be careful of marrying those who don't follow Jesus. Relational disunity causes pain, and relational unity is so very difficult when you don't share that common mission and purpose. When we're talking about marriage, we're talking the most intimate of human relationships - ideally. Disunity disrupts the ideal and breaks it.
In the church, disunity manifests itself in judgmentalism, gossip, slander, disobedience and/or deceit. We look at others and judge them not as spiritual as us. We disobey our leaders when we don't like the way they lead. We gossip about and slander those in the church when we don't see eye to eye. And we try to deceive the world that this is all okay.
There are so very few valid reasons to separate fellowship with other believers, or to fight amongst ourselves, and yet we do this all. the. time. And this disunity is so very wrong. It ruins our witness, breaks our relationships and makes it impossible to follow Christ. Yes, I said it is impossible. I didn't say it merely "made the mission more difficult." As soon as we turn our eyes off what we're here for (i.e., Jesus) then are no longer following Him. And you can't keep your eyes where they need to be while simultaneously disrupting the unity of the church.
Next time in this space, God willing, will be the third part of the unity topic where we touch on those "few valid reasons" for disunity. As a tease, disunity is never the goal, but when it arises over valid things it is to be used for restoration to unity. When it arises over the small things, it needs a good stamping out.
God bless -