Relational Unity – The Goal of the Church? Part 2 of 2: Is Spiritual Unity a Reality Today?

unityGod is pretty smart (really, all knowing or omniscient).  He created us, and He knows us.  He knows that in our fleshly natural state, we are not unifying beings.  Don’t believe it? Look at the drama we create so easily.  If you don’t see that, go keep the 2 and 3-year old nursery in your church.  In our fleshly, worldly state we are not ready for unity.  But, in our spiritual state and design (in God’s image), we can become just the opposite, when the Holy Spirit comes to our spirit at the time of salvation and through the renewing of our minds a ‘new creature’ begins.  Here, we BEGIN down a path TOWARD real, achievable, and beautiful unity with Jesus, God the Father, and our brothers and sisters in Christ through the Holy Spirit, in our faith and knowledge of Jesus.

Is personal Oneness with Jesus and the Father possible on earth?  Yes! (Consider Jesus the man and his relationship with God the Father while on earth; consider the apostles).  Is Unity within the Body of Christ possible today?  Poll 100 Christians and the majority will say ‘No’, but I say Yes! Is this Biblical?  Consider the Upper Room.  Consider the first church.  For me, I go to personal testimony as well, i.e. I have experienced it in relationship with surrendered, mature believers. For those that have accepted Christ as their savior and put Him on the throne of their lives, unity in the Body can be lived out today within a group and it is beautiful (not easy; requiring communication, surrender to Christ, and real love).  BUT, if your expectation is full unity and kumbaya with a large group, be ready for disappointment.  Be realistic about spiritual unity among the masses, while being persistent about Spiritual unity within the true mature Body.

Is unity in the physical church you go to on Sunday’s possible (NOTE: I am making a distinction between Sunday church, and the saved Body of Christ, and a more mature group within the saved body)?   The physical church you go to on Sunday, if like most current churches in America, is attended by a mix of people.  Some have accepted Christ, others have not.  Some say they have a relationship with Jesus, but they don’t even know Him. Some of the Christians have surrendered, others have not.  A few are selfless (God’s will not mine), many are selfish still.  So unity in the local church is a teaching and a pursuit, but you are not likely to be fully unified because you are likely not fully like-minded (or rather like-Spirited).  Can it be close or managed? Yes, but only with great church leadership.

Unity (individual Oneness in Christ and the Father and then shared with mature brothers and sisters) is often sought in the Sunday-Wednesday church by either 1) heavy handed leadership, or 2) mature leadership as described by the Apostle Paul.  A leadership that displays residual pride, restricts communication and seeking of the truth, will be heavy handed and live in fear of disunity.  This system may limit teaching (control the message), limit the teachers (deliverers of the Message), even require church contracts (versus using the Spirit as our seal and contract), or other similar methods of control.   In contrast, a leadership of humble men that is faithful enough to deal openly and Biblically with questions that arise, and seek and teach through them, will be better able to maintain unity in the Spirit even among diversity (of maturity and belief) and adversity (which always comes).  This too I can attest to and it is a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of.

What contribution can you or I make to assist with unity in the Body (believers) and unity in the Sunday church (mix of believers, non-believers, mature and immature) and in a small focused group (of mature, surrendered men for instance)?  First, get in the Word and gain maturity in understanding (2 Timothy 2:15).  Then, remain broken and open to the Spirit’s ongoing education, and put Christ first in your life, surrendering the desires of self.  Then, have ‘expectations’ for the leadership and mature men in the church, all while you have ‘understanding’ for the new believers and the unsaved (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).  If the church, leadership and layman, is unified in its acceptance of luke-warmness, living in fear, heavy handed in leadership, and satisfied if the people in the neighboring communities go to hell, should you unify (be silent and go along with all) with that?  If you want to be unified in a Revelation 3:16 type judgement, then that might be right for you, but I don’t think that is the goal of men that love Christ.

Don’t mistake accountability with judgement.  Paul is clear in the method of careful consideration and discussion of these matters in Ephesians 4 when he says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”.  This should certainly be OUR goal, but a harder truth and a deeper teaching is that sometimes the messenger delivers GOD’s message (not ours; today and in times past), through the Spirit, in the way and tone that God desires.  In 2 Samuel 12, the Lord sent Nathan to deliver a tough and direct message to David.  He told the King of Israel that he was a great sinner and punishment was coming.  If a similar message were to go out to many of our churches today, do you know what many would say?  They would say, “That is not love; that is not humility to come to us that way.”   Rather than hear the Lord’s message, and see how far they have fallen, they would blame the issues on the world and criticize the messenger. David’s response to the Lord’s message delivered through Nathan was one of repentance, and the Lord delivered grace.  In 1 Samuel 15:16-34, Samuel delivered a tough message to Saul and the heart that received it was not the same as that of David’s.

Relational unity is a nice pursuit.  It feels really good to get along with everyone.  And we are commanded to love our neighbor.  But unity or Oneness with Jesus and the Father is the priority for God’s men.  This is by design and meant for our success.  Our creator knows that true unity with our brothers only comes through first establishing a personal surrendered relationship with Christ.

Derek Dougherty

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