UNITY AND INDIVIDUALS: RELATIONSHIP AND UNITY
|CHRIST'S HANDS ACROSS THE INTERNET
Where christians come to share, pray and study.
By Michael Hawkinson
|To be above with the saints we love, oh that will be such glory. But to be below with the saints we know, now that's a different story.
This is not a short article to write. There are many parts and this will be a very basic beginning for you and I to build on. I gave up trying to write an in depth article on what is unity, how it works, why it is important and when we are to be in unity. It would fill several volumes of books and I have hundreds of scriptures which fill my head with varied parts of answers to those very questions. Therefore, this will be a very brief and scattered overview just to get you to think and to send email asking, "But what about...?"
Unity is demanded by Jesus. It is a command, not a request. It is also a prayer. In John 17, Jesus prays
|"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. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory
that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that
you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Paul also speaks extensively on unity in The Church in 1 Corinthians 12.
|1 Corinthians 12: 1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
True unity is achieved through obedience to God and love. Unity has nothing to do with personal preferences or compatibility. Common unity or community is not required, but unity is commanded. That is not to say that community (ie. Communal living or working) is not wonderful when done with one's eyes on Jesus, but it needs to be understood that even though you may not have unity in personal appearance, likes, dislikes or in style of worship or celebration of holidays, unity may not be broken for reasons of preference or complaints of incompatibility.
Common unity is what is usually seen in religious people and organizations. The force which brings them together is common beliefs, common goals, common projects, common laws, common clothing, common speech and unfortunately also common hatreds, common prejudices, common judgements of others and common persecution of those who are not in common unity. It is a mostly static, unchanging kind of force. Usually with no power of God behind it but an enormous amount of human passion, human energy and human sacrifice expended. It is unity through bureaucracy and human authority. Religion depends on authority of men, bureaucracy or institution and enforcement of agreed upon manner of behavior, thought and speech.
Unity, on the other hand is dynamic. Unity is always doing what Jesus would do. In Charles Sheldon's book "In His Steps" the people who chose to follow God were a great example of unity. Each character was certainly different, but they worked together. They did not work on a program, instead they did what they thought Jesus would do if He were in their position. It was believers supporting and encouraging others in their understanding of what Jesus would do. It was not always without trial, many religious people criticized them. People who choose to follow Jesus and be obedient will be called irrational, idealists, rebels and even heretics. When this happens you are standing in the sandals of the One who is our example.
OK, so what is unity? I have said it is doing what Jesus commanded, being obedient to Him. I have said it is love. It is being an individual part of the body. It is having a personal relationship with Jesus (the Head) and working with all others (other parts of the body) and not losing one's individuality. It is doing what we are designed and asked to do by God. A hand or foot never loses its identity, it is always a hand or foot. It would be ludicrous and unnatural for them to try and be an ear or eye. Unity is best seen in Jesus' prayer quoted above "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one." The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the best example of unity. They do not lose their individualness.
Yet again, the comparison of unity vs community may be a good starting point to allow you to think and ask God to help you think about your life. Remember, many denominations mix religion and relationship, so you will find some of the good with some of the bad. Just remember that bitter and sweet water are not to be mixed. We are either obedient or disobedient. It is our relationship with God which helps us to see how we are disobedient and what we are to do. After knowing the truth, we must do it regardless of consequence to ourselves.
The following comparisons are just a few to try and make you think about the differences and to search your heart and the Word of God to understand the unity He calls you to.
Community (religious): Fellowship is in sanctioned groups only. Bible studies, prayer meetings, small groups and activities must be approved and many outside of the community are criticized and judged. People are mistrusted who dress, talk, think or act differently. Fellowship is based on conformity and common behaviors, not on love of or submission to each other. It is a hierarchy not a unity.
Steve Taylor's song "I Want To Be a clone" says it perfectly.
|I WANT TO BE A CLONE (Steve Taylor, 1983 Sparrow Records)
I'd gone through so much other stuff that walking down the aisle was tough
but now I know it's not enough "I want to be a clone."
I asked the Lord into my heart, they said that was the way to start
but now you've got to play the part. I want to be a clone!
Be a clone, kiss conviction good night.
Cloniness is next to godliness, right!?
I'm grateful that they showed the way
cuz I could never know the way to serve Him on my own.
I want to be a clone!
They told me that'd I'd fall away unless I followed what they say
who needs the Bible anyway? I want to be a clone!
Their language it was new to me, but christianese got through to me,
now I CAN speak it fluently. I want to be a clone! (Chorus)
Send in the clones!
"Ahhh, I kind of wanted to tells my friends and people about it, ya know?"
"What!!?? He's still a babe, you have to grow! Give it 20 years or so!
Cuz if you want to be one of His you gotta act like one of us!" (Chorus)
So now I see the whole design, my church is an assembly line.
The parts are there, I'm feeling fine! I want to be a clone!
I've learned enough to stay afloat but not so much I rock the boat,
I'm glad they shoved it down my throat! I want to be a clone.
Everybody must get cloned!
Unity (Relationship): Believers who understand unity will worship with, pray with, work with and love all who name Jesus Lord and Savior. All are welcome to fellowship and praise God with them. Believers know that they gather to worship God not to further their own agendas.
Community (religious): The work of the religious can be stunning. Schools, charities, art, music, science and many wonderful things have come out of religious groups. But just as a murderer may love his family and pets, that does not save him when He faces judgement. The work of community is in projects. Work is assigned and if their is a need for Sunday school teachers, nursery workers, chaperones, choir members, etc... Then people are encouraged to get involved in a "ministry" that the "church" offers. It is based on programs being created and people being shoved into them like job applicants. Many people spend their lives doing religious service, but it ends up being to a denomination and not to the Lord.
Unity (Relationship): Believers demonstrate unity when they build up, exhort, encourage and help others do what God has commanded them to do. If they feel a need to reach out to gangs, then prayer, support, and education is given to assist them. If they want to sing, work with children, help pregnant teens, disciple others, etc. They are encouraged to be obedient. They are encouraged to ask "What would Jesus do if He were in my position?" And then to do it!
Community (religious): Sin has less to do with obedience to God and more to do with conformity to common expectations. Sin is to be seen or heard acting or believing differently than the group. It is easily seen in religious denominations and organizations by the acceptance of the murder of children, sex outside of marriage, racism, persecution of others, slander, libel, mixing what is to be given to God with what is to be given to Caesar. Sin is ignored or encouraged when it suits the purpose of the group.
Unity (Relationship): Living outside of God's commandments. Failing to love one's family, other believers, enemies and neighbors. Disobeying what God tells us to do. Not doing what we know we should do. Lifting one's hand or voice to strike down another. Losing one's temper. Feeling sorry for oneself.
|John 15: "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."
Community (religious): Religious community demands unquestioning obedience to human authority appointed and ordained of men. They use many arguments taken out of context and set themselves up as God's authorities on earth. Members of such groups put their leaders on a pedestal and praise them and give them unquestioning obedience. They see unity only as one sports team sees itself. Teamwork ends with their own membership or those who they consider "fans."
Unity (Relationship): Unity of believers expects obedience to God's authority and honor to all authorities as long as such obedience does not conflict with obedience to God's commands to us. Believers allow pastors to pastor, ministers to minister, servants to serve, discerners to discern, wise men to dispense wisdom, givers to give, deacons to deaconize and apostles to apostlatize! (heh heh.. OK, OK so I made a couple of those verbs up!) The point is, when we find ourselves in the presence of other believers, we allow God to use them as He see fit and we honor and respect them while testing all teachings with the Holy Spirit and do not act contrary to what God teaches us. Believers listen and obey even when their flesh resists doing what is right or what God commands. Believers honor and respect government leaders and pray for them giving what is due to them without complaint as long as they do not ask for what is God's.
Community (religious): Religious communities judge appearances, diet, which biblical translations are acceptable, how to celebrate holidays and which ones to celebrate, what music is acceptable and how to worship or pray. Religious communities hold themselves together by manmade rules disguised as the teaching of God. Religious communities ignore God's standards when it suits their purpose. These religious groups are common today and OK violence, sexual immorality, civil disobedience, hatred, abortion and any behavior which makes it appear nonjudgemental. In fact, many religious groups strive hard to appear to be nonjudgemental but fail miserably. They fail at Paul's words, Gal 1 "If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Religious people try to please men in their striving for unity.
Unity (Relationship): Believers seek to be just in all things, rightly discerning for themselves what is right and wrong and exhorting those who sin. Unity requires love. 1 Peter 4: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Corinthians 13 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." Judgements are done according to God's commands and only of believers. I Cor 5: 12 "What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (13) God will judge those outside." Unity demands judgment with discernment and no one is to be denied food, clothing, water, shelter, prayer when sick or comfort when imprisoned. Unity allows only for disfellowshipping of believers who refuse to repent of disobedience to God. Believers know the real Judge is God and Jesus, before whom every knee shall bow.
The problem with trying to address this issue is that Jesus has spent years discipling me and teaching me how to be His servant and there are hundred of related topics. It is the very process of being in unity that apostles, prophets, pastors, ministers and all of God's servants are trying to teach and achieve. It is in unity of The Church that God moves.
|Ephesians 4: 11-16 "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
When hearts are unified then God moves. True unity causes a deep identification with others that is free of envy, free of covetousness and allows us to experience others joy and sorrow as our own. God uses others to mold us. The constant intermingling of individuals hopefully gives us opportunities to learn to respond to others rather than to react to them.
In the future, I will try to speak about how true unity handles problems of persecution, differences in doctrines, community needs, sharing the gospel, dealing with sin and rebellion, obeying the government, submission to each other, and also answers to any questions that are sent by email.
I would like to leave you with a beautiful example of unity between people. An example of love between God's children.
|1 Samuel 18: 1-4 After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. 23:16-18 And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. "Don't be afraid," he said. "My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this." The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.
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