Unity Seems Easy
We’ve talked a lot about the foundation of unity and why it’s so important for believers and the Church. We’ve talked about how unity is so very vital to the mission of the Church. In addition, we’ve talked about how unity between all believers was so important to Jesus that He prayed to the Father about it in His final hours before His crucifixion. We also talked about how the role of obedience has to play in our unity.
Unity Seems Nice and Pretty
Unity seems all nice and pretty when you read these wonderful passages in Scripture. Unity seems easy when you read about how Jesus prayed for us all to be one. We read these passages, nod our heads in smiling agreement, and say “Yes! We want unity! We want that!”
We expect, then, for unity to flow easily like a gentle breeze on a perfect, warm sunny day. We expect unity to be easy as pie just because we ‘say’ we’re all Christians. We expect unity to be a warm and fuzzy feeling like a soft kitty cat curled up in your lap, right?
Unity until Someone Disagrees
Really, the opposite is often true. In reality, unity is difficult to obtain and even harder to maintain. In actuality, unity has to be intentionally pursued, fought for, and protected.
When we try to live out our faith in this Christian life, then it doesn’t take long for issues to creep up that undermine the unity for which we aim.
So, let’s talk about the divisions that prevent unity.
Disagreements in Beliefs
I believe this is the number 1 reason for division in our churches and the reason why unity is so difficult to achieve. Since the Church began in the book of Acts, disciples and leaders disagreed about the interpretation of Scripture and what it means. Throughout the centuries, differences in interpretation and beliefs have splintered and fractured the Church until there are hundreds of denominations and hundreds more interpretations of what the Scriptures say and what they mean. Some of these variances and variety CAN be good, however, more times than not, it has caused great division and prevented the development of unity.
And because of it, we are not one!
Sometimes, a specific denomination’s stand on doctrinal interpretation so is strong that people are required to agree with those beliefs in order to be part of that church which can alleviate divisions creeping up that prevent unity. But on the other side of the spectrum, there are congregations where the members hold a wide variety of personal beliefs and interpretations of Scripture which have the potential for lively discussion or deep study but can easily unravel into heated debate and hot disagreements.
We see evidence of this in Acts between Peter and Paul and again between Paul and Barnabas.
In fact, many, if not most, of the New Testament letters, Paul addresses issues of belief and practice that cause division and prevent unity. It doesn’t take long for people to mess things up! And, it has continued through hundreds of years of Church history
Father, help us all!!
Disagreements in Practice
If the potential to disagree about beliefs and interpretations weren’t enough, the potential for division on how to practice those beliefs make unity an even greater obstacle. How will we actually go about living out the ideas and concepts we believe, and how do we do this in a community of people who have differences of opinion of how all this should be done?
Some practices are explained and discussed in Scripture, but again, differences in interpretation feed differences in practice. Other practices that aren’t expressly mentioned in the Bible but are important aspects of our church functioning have potential for disagreements and division.
Again, this isn’t anything new. The New Testament Church experienced the same thing. That’s why Paul wrote about it so much, and his writings are still needed in the Church today.
To me, this is the ugliest one of all. Differences in belief and practice are at least flowing out of a desire to live and serve God (we hope) to the best of our ability. At least, differences in belief and practice are based on a spiritual foundation. But power struggles….that’s just the human, fleshly need to be in control. The ones who have control want to keep it often at any cost. The ones who want control and will do anything to get it. We see power struggles from who’s in charge and who says what we believe to who’s controlling the money all the way down to what color the carpet should be or which side of the church we should set the piano!!!
Yes, we’ve all experienced power struggles in some way. The elderly leader who’s been there for so long and doesn’t want to change to the family who donates a lot of money so they expect decisions to go their way.
Who has control. Who wants control. Who’s trying to maintain control. Power struggles have existed since the Church began. It’s so heart breaking. It must break the heart of the Father and Son who prayed for us all to be one just like they are one.
These divisions are just the start. There are many more, but these are the biggies that other divisions stem from.
What experiences have you had with these divisions? How have they stunted unity in your church?
Let’s keep the discussion going! Join me at the WoW Facebook group to share your thoughts and experiences.
Next time, we’ll peel layers back even further to discuss deeper divisions to unity!