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Unity in the Body of Christ
Unity in the Body of Christ
In this hub, I am going to be discussing unity in the body of Christ. I will discuss the bearing unity has on Christian maturity, some things that get in the way of our unity, the importance of communication, avoiding gossip, and unity of Bible doctrine.
Unity and Christian Character
Ephesians 4:11-13 associates unity with maturity in Christ.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”. KJV.
In the Adventist Church, we are taught that it is not until the character of Christ is reproduced in us that we will be ready for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since unity is associated with maturity in Christ, we will not be ready for Jesus’ return if we are divided. If we are divided, we are not mature Christians. We are, in fact, no better than the unconverted: “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” - 1 Corinthians 3:3.
Are there issues of unity in your church?
Pharisees Among Us
The Bible tell us that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25). The devil knows this, and he is constantly trying to divide and conquer the church. One of the ways that he does this is by getting believers to develop an attitude of self-righteousness. They raise this high standard for those around them, that they expect them to keep, quickly forgetting that no one is perfect. When people fall short of that standard, the self-righteous become judgmental and unfriendly.
Often times, the imposed standard of the self-righteous is unbiblically stringent. I knew such a person. They criticised me for spending too much time on my laptop (even though they had no idea how much time I actually spent on my laptop, because they were never around me when I was on it). They said that I needed to stop spending so much time on my laptop because the radiation from my monitor would cause ill health. It was ironic when their spouse told them that their old PC monitor, which they used when writing articles, produced much more radiation than my laptop monitor. They didn’t have any recommendations for how long I should spend on my laptop after that.
This same person criticised me for not eating enough nuts. They said I should eat nuts every day. They made it sound like if I didn’t do these things (limit my time on my laptop and eat nuts every day), I was out of the will of God. They were killing me! They criticised me for various things on a continual basis; and by forceful argument, they tried to get me to conform to their standard of righteousness. They did the same thing to those around them. Eventually, I had enough. Sad to say, we are not currently on friendly terms.
This kind of forceful criticism is not how we are called to live. Our focus is not to be on how others are living their Christian lives, but on our relationship with Jesus: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves ...” - 2 Corinthians 13:5. Some people are all too eager to examine others to see whether or not they are in the faith. Stop it!
I have adopted a philosophy in my life that has been a great deal of help to me in dealing with others: “If you don’t expect anything from anyone, they could never disapoint you.” I don’t know where that quote came from; but after hearing it one day it made a lot of sense to me, and I have been living my life according to it ever since. Therefore, if you have some kind of issue in your life, I can help you, talk to you, and pray with and for you; but beyond that, what you do is between you and God. My focus needs to remain on Christ.
The Necessity of Criticism
All things considered, there is a necessity for criticism. I know this sounds like it goes against everything I have written up to this point, but hear me out. James 5:20 tells us, “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” How could you reveal someone’s error without criticising them? Therefore, there is a need for criticism.
However, it is the kind of criticism that makes a difference. Proverbs 18:19 states, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city”. That means that we need to give constructive criticism, encouragement to do right, instead of bashing people over the head with the Bible.
I had an Adventist friend (notice I said “had”) that believed she was granted the gift of criticism. She claimed that she was called by God to clean up the church; and she went about criticising people about everything and anything, and vigorously endeavoring to get them to change their ways, like the person I mentioned above. Nevertheless, instead of cleaning up the church, she just ended up making a big mess.
She alienated herself from half of the church. She made allegations against the pastor that got him fired; and she separated from the church in order to lead her own worship group in her home and in the homes of other Adventists who followed her, which also means that she persuaded some members from the church to join her. Does that sound familiar? It reminds of something that happened in Heaven. There is nothing new under the sun...
Talk to Me
Something else that disrupts our unity is lack of communication. I have experienced this a few times. I believe this is a big problem among believers and unbelievers alike. I have this Polish friend (I live in Poland), who I noticed was visibly upset about something. When I questioned her about it, she said that it was me! She said that she was on the border of discontinuing all communication with me for two weeks because she wanted to teach me a lessons.
I asked her what the problem was. She told that every time I texted her with a one word reply, I did not include a happy face, or some kind of face that corresponded with my answer; and that was considered uncultured and rude when texting. I told her, “Give me a break. How was I supposed to know this? I just got out of prison (I served 8 years in federal prison)! We didn’t have cell phones in prison, and before I got locked up, texting technology didn’t even exist."
I am happy to say that our issue was resolved. Now, every time I text her with a one word answer, I include a happy face, or whatever, after my response. She is happy, and I am happy that our friendship has remained intact. However, this goes to show how easy it is to jeopardize a friendship over something so minor because of a lack of communication.
Be Careful What You Say
Communication is vitally important because when we don’t discuss our concerns with each other, then what are we liable to do? We are liable to discuss them with others; and there is a thin line between discussing our concerns with others and gossipping. I have been the victim of gossip, and it was not a pleasant experience.
I am a firm believer that gossip needs to be confronted as soon as possible in order to try and clear up any misunderstandings; and so that is what I did. I found out who my friends were, after that. I actually lost some friends over that—Adventists. It got so bad that I had to unfriend them from my Facebook. That’s because they were looking at pictures of a married female friend of mine and I from church and making making assumptions that they should have discussed with me, if they were really all that concerned. They started promulgating some very serious allegations against us, saying that we were having an affair (even though she was separated from her husband at the time and they are now going through a divorce, but that is another issue).
I did not hear about these rumors until some time later. At least a month or so. My female friend told me about them; and that is when I started confronting the people guilty of spreading them. They lied to my face. They said that they heard the rumors themselves, but they did not believe them and they didn’t spread them to anyone else. They would not disclose who they heard them friend, either, which I thought was suspicious. Time and other people who had heard the rumors and spoke to me about them afterwards revealed that that was only because they had started the rumors and were spreading them. How insidious! You can’t imagine how betrayed I felt.
Now I have to deal with the fact that some people in my church think I am an adulterer; and others are recommending that I stay away from my female friend because everything we do together is going to interpreted as us having an affair; but I am not going to do that. I am not going to end a good friendship with someone over some lies. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see the logic in that. Even if I did, those same people spreading rumors about us would probably start saying that we are not spending time together anymore in order to cover up our affair. They have a saying in California, where I grew up: “Haters are going to keep hating, no matter what.”
Therefore, if you have an issue with someone or if you heard something about them that causes you concern, I suggest that you talk to them about it. Do not discuss it with others, first. Especially if they have nothing to do with it. You will be gossiping. You may be spreading lies; and you may damage the reputation of an innocent person.
It seems like doctrinal unity is being less and less regarded, even though the Bible underlines it: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive”. - Ephesians 4:14. False doctrine is called deceptive. It will endanger your salvation.
This reminds me of a web site I came across, recently. It was about church unity. It said hat it doesn’t matter what one believes: whether you are pre-trib or post-trib, nor on what day you worship, as long as we are united in Christ. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Ecumenical Movement? They make the name of Christ so cliche in order to distract people from the real issues and get them to join their movement. But what kind of unity is that if you can’t even agree on what you believe in? There’s a word for that: Babylon (confusion).
Unity and a mature Christian character are intertwined. We won't make it to Heaven if we lack one or the other. Oftentimes, we allow insignificant matters to disrupt our unity; and unity and doctrine are important, regardless what anyone says.
Jesus did not die on the cross to have us arguing with each other; and He did not send us His Holy Spirit for us to be confused about His Word. He left us an example of humble service to follow; and He promised us that if we will do His will we will know His doctrine (John 7:17).
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" - Psalm 133:1
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