One of the signs of a troubled church is a spirit of bickering that leads to disunity. Unfortunately it is a pox that plagues many churches today. Fifteen-hundred years ago, a very wise Church Father named Augustine said: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love. This is good advise for the Body of Christ. There are some things Christians must agree on, such as the Divinity of Jesus, the accuracy and authority of the Bible, and that Jesus is the only way to salvation. If we don’t agree on those then we’ve got big problems. Unity is not more important than doctrine. But we should be as charitable as possible when disagreeing.
There are honest debates, for example, about how to interpret the Book of Revelation, and one can hold one of several views and still be an orthodox Christian. There are many worship preferences (music, style, etc.) that we don’t need to agree on. There is remarkably little guidance in the New Testament on how to conduct worship services, so a little flexibility should be in order. The main thing is to never alter the message of the Gospel.
When we are united on the essentials, Christianity is incredible.
One of the things I’ve so appreciated about this congregation over the years is a real sense of unity among the brethren. It hasn’t always been so. ILLUS. Conversation with Jewel Thomas.
For some weeks now, I’ve been preaching on the Pillars of Christian Character. We’ve already examined four of those pillars: Faith, Obedience, Humility, and Love. Unity is the fifth and there are five more to go. The text I’ve chosen to develop this theme of unity as foundational to Christian character, comes from Philippians 2:5-11. This passage give us one of the most exalted views of Christ in all the Scriptures. It's theological scope is breathtaking. What I find so interesting is that it was written because of a squabble between two women in the church at Philippi. The incident that prompted Paul's writing of this letter and this passage in particular was a hostile rivalry that started as a private matter but soon affected an entire congregation.
“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:2-3, NIV)
The church in Philippi was evidently taking sides behind these two contentious women. Pride and stubbornness kept Eudoria and Syntyche from resolving their problems. The result was that Jesus Christ, and His Lordship over that church, was eclipsed by the conflict. Any sin, whether it be individual or corporate, that overshadows the glory of Christ in his church must be dealt with.
We will never become a church that effectively reaches out to those who are missing out if we shoot our wounded and major on the minuses. Instead of being fishers of men, as Christ has called us, we will be keepers of an ever-shrinking aquarium. The great need in local churches today is a spirit of unity in the bond of peace.
In just a few weeks, you’ll see geese heading south for the winter, flying along in V formation. Do you why they fly that way. Ornithologists have learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.
Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the formation and another goose flies point. The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
What we need in the Body of Christ is the sense God gave a goose!