As I have studied the subject of unity, the following things have become increasingly clear:
- Unity among Christians is extremely important to GOD. Sin nor false doctrine should ever be tolerated, and neither should Christians draw lines where GOD hasn't drawn them, thereby creating disharmony—and potentially division—within the church.
- The biblical concept of unity is actually a simple one to grasp:
- Recognize Jesus as head of the church.
- Submit yourself to His leadership.
- Recognize that the scope of your responsibility is to be unified with (all) other Christians (and only those who are truly in Christ).
- Maintain a servant-like attitude and actively seek ways to encourage and build up fellow Christians.
- When necessary, sacrifice personal freedom to keep from causing your brother to stumble.
- Like biblical unity, the gospel of Jesus is simple. And just like men have complicated and perverted the gospel, they have complicated and misapplied the biblical concept of unity, professing that all Christians must agree on every subject or else they aren't unified.
- Over the centuries, Christians and would-be-Christians have made a terrible mess of the church (or at least people's perception of the church). This statement is not surprising, but the study of what the Bible teaches regarding unity has helped me better understand how we got to here. False teaching; dogmatic arguments over "doubtful things"; a failure to place supreme importance on remaining "one in Christ;" and a failure to recognize those who have been properly baptized into Christ as brethren despite various doctrinal differences have each contributed to the fragmentation of the church and the rise of denominationalism.
- Like denominationalism, the rise of the "church building culture" has also significantly impacted Christians' view of what it means to be unified. Sadly, for many, the way they identify who they are "unified with" is based on where they meet for collective worship, what facilities their building contains, and what title is written on the sign out front. Friends, this is not from GOD. It was not so in the New Testament.
How Do We Fix This Mess?
If Christians are ever going to fix the mess of division that exists today among true Christians, we must do so one heart at a time. Go back to the New Testament and look at the first century church afresh. Do your best to remove your personal biases, prejudices, and past experiences, and picture the way things used to work when the LORD was leading the early Christians through the apostles. Align your heart to what you read in the New Testament regarding unity. Pray for GOD to help as you apply yourself to the study. Then, promote the truth on the subject and help others to take the same journey you have.