BLOG BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER
In Pastor Raphael’s message on faith as it related to Abraham and Lot in Genesis 13, he cited numerous times that “who we are” should be more important to us than “what we have.” Abraham pointed this out so beautifully when he confronted his nephew Lot by telling him, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.” (Genesis 13:8, all refs are from the ESV)
In the same way, we should recognize that our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ should guard us against getting hung up on the “stuff” (as Pastor Raphael loves to call it) that we gain from our relationship with the Lord. This unity is emphasized as a point of major importance in Scripture. Look at these passages:
— Psalms 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.”
— Philippians 2:2, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
— Ephesians 4:3-4, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call…”
— Romans 14:19, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify one another.”
— Colossians 3:14, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Pastor Raphael noted that the most messed up New Testament church was undoubtedly the church at Corinth. They had issues over baptism, relationships, marriage, communion, forms of worship, the list goes on and on. Yet, when Paul sat down to write them a letter, what was the first issue he confronted them on? Unity! “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Why is unity so important in the church? Because quite simply, the church is in the disciple-making business, and the very process of keeping the unity of the church is part of being a disciple! When we are divided, it demonstrates that we have something other than Jesus as our heart and core. This singular focus is what Jesus is praying for us John 17:20-21, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
It is simple, really. If we are truly His disciples, then we would have the same attitude of humility as Jesus. Philippians 2:1-8, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
When the world sees the church, they should be seeing Jesus, because we all are to resemble Him. They should see individuals who are empowered by the Holy Spirit by their faith in the gospel, and thus are striving to put others first, and putting other’s interests above their own - just like Jesus. But when the church is made up of self-interested individuals who are seeking their own agendas, or their own desires or think their “stuff” is more valuable than others, it is showing how unlike Jesus they are. In fact, it even calls into question when they truly are part of Christ’s body at all!
As the Bible points out from the first book to the last, we live in covenant with God through faith - He is our God, and we are His people - and the evidence of this reality is how we love one another in a community of faith. When we can love as Christ loves, even to those who do not deserve it, it is the confirmation that our hearts truly belong to Him.
Larry W. Stout, Ph.D., MBA, is an elder at City Church. Larry is a former missionary in the republic of Latvia. He helped start several churches and was a founder and first director for the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga. Larry is an author of three books on leadership and human resource management and two novels. He also is currently a weekly columnist for Lycoming County’s largest circulation newspaper, the Webb Weekly, a Clinton Township Supervisor and a Leadership Consultant & Trainer.