“Watch out for people who cause divisions…such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests.” (Romans 16:17-18)
I strongly believe that job number one for every Christian as it relates to our personal responsibility in the church is to protect the unity of the fellowship. There is no greater effort to which one can expend his energy. Likewise, there is no greater sin than to be party to disharmony and division among God’s people.
Several sobering passages in Scripture stand as eternal warning signs to us not to enter this territory. One of the most sobering reminds us that to engage in such behavior is to incur the displeasure and anger of God, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: …a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Jesus reminded us that where disunity exists, destruction of the fellowship is not far behind, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Matthew 12:25)
Paul felt very strongly about disunity as well. Instructing his young protégé, Titus, in how he was to manage the local church, Paul said that division requires an immediate, consistent and aggressive response from church leadership, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You can be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11)
That’s how repugnant division and disunity is to God, and on the flip side, just how important unity and harmony is to him. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, our Lord interceded for his church before the Father, praying, “I pray for all who will believe in me…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:20-21)
Of all the things Jesus could have prayed for, he was most concerned about the unity of the church. And since it was that important to Jesus, we must allow it to become that important to us as well. We must be very alert to any attitudes and actions on our part, or on the part of others, that would lead to even the smallest crack in the unity of the fellowship to which we belong. We have no right to harm the unity for which Jesus bled and died to preserve.
In light of that, I would suggest a few things that will help you to become one of those true heroes of the faith who helps preserves the unity of the church:
One, realize most of the stuff which causes division really doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. Paul told Titus, “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels…these are unprofitable and useless.” (Titus 3:9) Most of the stuff that divides Christians just doesn’t matter. So just let it go.
Two, realize that there is more that unites us than divides us. We have so much common ground in Christ. If we would focus on that, our differences would be minimized and our common love for Christ would be magnified. Paul challenges us to “do the things that lead to harmony and promote peace in the church.” (Romans 14:9)
And three, get tough with those who selfishly push their own agenda at the expense of maintaining “the unity of the Spirit through the bonds of peace.” As Paul said, warn them once; even warn them a second time. Remind them that God hates disunity and detests the one who foments it. If they continue, if they are a chronic divider, Paul says to “mark them.” In other words, get tough, because the unity of your fellowship is more important than the feelings and wishes of some unhealthy, selfish, immature person who is willing to risk it to get their own way.
God loves unity. And God will bless you if you will love it too.