Relational Unity — The Goal of the Church? Part 1 of 2: Unity or Passivity?


In the name of unity, the Church is often rendered ineffective (Revelation 3:1), Christians are often crushed by this world (because they live without power), and those that are ‘dead in their sin’ go to Hell (due to lack of Church activity outside its walls; Romans 10:14).  When ‘can’t we all just get along’, ‘that’s not love’, or ‘that is not humility’ removes the power from the Church and replaces it with a human understanding of unity (lack of contention and sense of relational peace), then unity (actually, passivity) is not positive.

What is unity?  By definition it is, “the state of being united or joined as a whole.”   We could be in a state of unity, and not be aligned with God.  You could be united in your desire to kill all the Jews.  Hitler had unity enough in Germany to kill millions of them.  Think this is an absurd example?  You could create a majority enough with unity (of the court, congress, voting block, church, etc.) to abort millions of babies in a country.  Seem absurd?  This has happened in America underneath the nose and the ‘power’ of the Church.  You could create enough unity of self-righteousness that you could literally damage the individual spirit of many young Christians within a church denomination for decades by not understanding grace. You could lean the other way in a unified fashion and kill the spirit of many for eternity by not preaching the seriousness of sin and its consequences. UNITY of people and even of church member relationships alone is not the goal!  And this simple-minded pursuit and satisfaction of ‘unity’ is killing the effectiveness of many individual churches.

The Spirit and the Bible, together, provide the truths for a Unity that IS the goal of Jesus’s Church (John 17:20-26) and it is achievable, in part and in areas of our walk, now.  And, when obtained, it is beautiful.  How do we understand unity then?  Let’s go to Ephesians 4:1-16 where it is defined in simple, straightforward terms.  For the sake of space it is not reprinted in full here, but take a minute and read it, and then re-read it (as the depth does not sink in fully in a casual read), and then join me back here.  People so often read this passage and come away with, ‘be humble, gentle, patient, and bearing with love’ to keep unity within the Church. Pastors may preach this passage this way to try to ‘put down’ problems or to verbally chastise those coming against them. But, this is not what is says nor what it means and if we keep with this shallow interpretation, or use it for personal means, we will continue to kill the power of the Church.

The power of the Church is not in the unity of personal relationships and treatment of each other.  The power of the Church is in the SOURCE of the commanded unity.  In verse 3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”.  In verse 13, “…until we reach the unity in the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God..”   Who’s unity?  Unity in what and of what?  These descriptors are key here.

The goal is not to fully get along (zero issues to work through, Beulah land today, perfect relationships) with each other, and go one way or the other together (agree on carpet colors all the time, every time). The goal is unity in One WAY!   ‘In the Spirit’, ‘in the faith’, and in the knowledge of Jesus!  THERE IS ONE SPIRIT!  There is not a Baptist spirit, and a Methodist spirit, and a Lutheran spirit.  There is not a carpet committee spirit and a building committee spirit.  There is not a Pastor Bill spirit, a Pastor John spirit, an Elder Ray spirit, or a Deacon Bob spirit that we are to unify in (people have their individual spirit, but these are not the Spirit of God that we unify in).  THERE IS ONE SPIRIT (of God)!  Similarly, there is not a faith in Pastor Jim, or Man-of-God Charles, or Bishop Jakes that saves.  THERE IS ONE JESUS.  Open your ears and hear! Gentle, loving, humble-seeming people who ignore this Truth everyday have killed and continue to kill the effectiveness of the Church.  If I can have modern day Kumbaya or Beulah Land or Jesus, give me Jesus.  If I can choose between the tightest knit Sunday social club and Jesus, give me Jesus!  Why? Because Jesus, and He alone, is Life!

Derek Dougherty

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