You are joined together with peace through the Spirit, so make every effort to continue together in this way. – Ephesians 4:3
It is our job and responsibility to protect the unity of our church.
Unity is the soul of fellowship. Destroying it is ripping the heart out of God’s body- the church. Just like our earthly parents, Jesus enjoys watching His children get along with each other.
Unity is so important to God! The bible gives us applicable advice:
Focus on what we have in common, not our differences: Paul tells us in Romans 14:19, “Let us concentrate on the things which make for harmony, and on the growth of one another’s character.”
Instead of saying, ‘I believe Jesus wore only sandals, and you believe he wore sneakers, so we can’t agree on shoes’ say, “You and I believe Jesus walked on the earth”, and that’s all that matters.
God chose to give us different personalities, races, ethnicities, etc., so it’s evident He doesn’t want uniformity, which is being the same, but He wants unity, which is being in full agreement. When our sole concentration is showing love to one another and worshipping God, harmony is strengthened. In I Corinthians 1:10, Paul appeals to us, “dear brothers, I beg you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so that there won’t be splits in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
Be realistic in your expectations: Once we discover what God expects real fellowship to be, and realize we’re nowhere close to that, we could become discouraged by that gap that exists in our church. True maturity in Christ is when we passionately love our church in spite of the many shortcomings we see, or when we continue to fellowship with people even when they disappoint us. When we are ready to give up on people, let’s remember what the bible says in Colossians 3:13, “be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”
I’ve met many modern day atheists who have denounced their faith in God because of the high level of hypocrisy, pettiness, hurt, or any other negative emotion found in the church. Rather than being shocked by things that happen within the walls of the church, let’s remember that we are all sinners and the actions of church members will not always reflect how God expects us to live.
We set ourselves up for disappointments when we think our pastors, or PK’s, or choristers, or church workers and members should be faultless. When we stop pretending, and admit that we are in dire need of grace daily, real community begins.
Choose to encourage rather than criticize: It’s always easier to watch people perform and point out their weaknesses than it is for us to get involved. Romans 14:4 challenges us; “What right do you have to criticize someone else’s servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right.” In verse 10 of the same chapter, Paul asks, “why do you criticize the actions of other believers, why try to make them look small? We shall all be judged one day, not by the standards we set, but by the standard of Christ.” It’s not your place to say, “how dare He be a chorister and a homosexual at the same time? When you’re an usher who enjoys pre-marital sex. I hope this point sinks in! This is not to say don’t correct people in love, but it’s saying don’t judge in your heart! We all have one fault or the other. What keeps us in Christ, and gives us the hope of heaven is the daily dosage of God’s grace. Satan is the accuser of brethren; let’s not struggle to take over his job responsibilities. The bible tells us not to drag people down by finding faults.
Refuse to listen to gossip: This is hard for me. I never START gossip, or spread it, but I like to indulge in listening. I just learned that ‘E NO GOOD!’ When I’m not part of the problem or solution, I shouldn’t have any business in it. The bible says troublemakers listen to troublemakers, and they’re ultimately the ones who split the church. If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely gossiped, been gossiped to, or been gossiped about. We all understand how it feels, and the hurt it causes, so let’s avoid it like a plague.
Practice God’s method for conflict resolution: God laid out the ideal way for dealing with conflicts in Matthew 18: 15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” Private confrontation is always the first step, and you should take it as soon as possible, but not when you’re still very angry.
Support your pastors and leaders: No leader is perfect, but they’ve been placed over us, and the bible makes it clear how we’re expected to act towards them in Hebrews 13:17- 18. “Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its labor. Why would you want to make things harder for them? Pray for them. They have no doubts about what they’re doing or why, but it’s hard for them and they need your prayers.”
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 tells us to “honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!” There are many people in our community who are looking for a place to belong. We all need to be showed love, when people find a church that shows them love, they will stick with the church, and protect it!
Food for thought: What am I personally doing to protect unity in my church family right now?