What does the Bible say about unity?
Paul’s words in verse 10 give a clear answer:
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Cor. 1:10)
Within the local church, descriptors like “agree with one another,” “no divisions,” and “perfectly united” are to characterize relationships. Still, if you take a tour of the first-century church experiences, you will discover many areas of dissension. Let’s outline just a few of those.
Leadership loyalties (1 Cor. 1:10-17) – The church in Corinth had groups of people orienting themselves according to their loyalty to different leaders. This created tension!
Spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12-14) – Some seemed to be prideful about the specific gift they had. Others were jealous, wishing they had more public gifts.
Ethnic backgrounds (Acts 6:1-7) – Ladies in the Jerusalem church with a Greek background were being overlooked in a ministry to widows.
Doctrinal differences (Acts 15) – To add to the ethnic challenges, Jewish believers expected Gentile believers to keep the Law and express faith in Jesus. This was a source of great tension through the first decades of church life.
Of course, those are just a sampling of the realities that threatened the unity in the church in the generation after Christ’s ascension. While we see some of those paralleled today, we also have our own challenges that create division whether they include musical preferences or the proverbial color of the carpet! Are there principles spanning the generations that address the disunity and lead to unity? Here are a few:
- Humbly consider others as more important than yourself (Phil. 2:1-11)! Disunity often stems from a “me focus.”
- Readily utilize the gift you have for the benefit of others (1 Cor. 12)! The body of Christ needs every member.
- Engage in the mission and ministry of the local church (Eph. 4:11-16)! Spectators make good critics, but getting in the game can make a big difference.
- Allow church leaders to grapple with the tension (Acts 6:1-7; 15)! As you do so, prayerfully support them.
Pursue unity to God’s glory!