“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
Many would tell you that, based on their experiences, the Psalm should read, “Behold how ‘difficult‘ and ‘challenging‘ it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
Have you heard the line – “To live above with saints we love will certainly be glory. To dwell below with saints below, that’s another story”?
Perhaps unity is such a “good and pleasant” experience because it’s so rare.
We know that unity is neither easily attained, nor easily maintained. This is why the early Church was told to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Unity requires hard work (“make every effort”), vigilance (“to keep or protect”), and walking by the Spirit (“the unity of the Spirit”). Unity must be an intentional commitment and value of a local Church. Leaders have a special calling to watch over and protect the unity of the Church (Acts 20:28-31; Hebrews 13:17).
There is also a compelling connection between the notable unity among believers and the credibility of their witness to the gospel among unbelievers.
Unity and witness
- John 13:35 – “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
- John 17:20-21 – “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you 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.”
- Philippians 2:14-16 – “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
Unity is challenging because the relationships in the church are not to be superficial or casual. The picture of life together for those who follow Christ is the “one anthers” of the NT listed below. They depict life-together in mutual love, honor, unity, care, service, and accountability.
- Accept one another (Rom 15:7)
- Carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
- Have equal concern for each other (1 Cor. 12:25)
- Watch out for one another (Heb. 3:12-13)
- Encourage one another (Heb. 3:13; 10:25)
- Live in harmony with one another (1 Pet. 3:8)
- Confess your sins to each other (Jas. 5:16)
- Be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10)
- Edify one another (Rom. 14:19; 1 Thess. 5:11)
- Consider others better than yourselves (Phil. 2:3)
- Bear with one another (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:13)
- Forgive each other (Eph. 4:32)
- Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16; 15:5)
- Love one another (John 13:34-35; 17; Rom. 13:8)
- Be members of one body (Rom. 12:5; Eph. 4:25)
- Be at peace with each other (Eph. 4:3)
- Pray for each other (Jas. 5:16)
- Serve one another (Gal. 5:13; 1 Pet. 4:10)
- Honor one another (Rom. 12:10)
- Offer hospitality to one another (1 Pet. 4:9)
Discuss and reflect on these calls to action
- “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
- “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace…” (Romans 14:19).
- “Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
- “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy …” (Hebrews 12:14).
- It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel (Proverbs 20:3).
- “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14).
- “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (i.e. offenses)” (I Peter 4:8).
As we take the call to unity seriously, we have the potential of experiencing how good and pleasant it is. Too often the issues that divide us are not things that should be tests of orthodoxy or conditions of fellowship. We get hung up on debatable matters that make us look trivial and foolish. Churches must help members distinguish debatable matters from true concerns of unity. For a helpful resource, see – Legalism.