UNITY – A SUGGESTION OR A COMMAND

Psalm 133:1-3 NIV [1] How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! [2] It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. [3] It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

 

Few Christians truly understand the immense power of unity. It is much more than a biblical concept, a “feel good” goal to aim for, or a humanistic expression of tolerance. True unity is the only expression of Christianity that carries a disproportionate influence to produce God-glorifying change on earth.

 

Ps 133 tells us why this is so. When people live together in unity……the Lord bestows his blessing! Or as another translation puts it, When the people dwell together in unity…….the Lord commands a blessing (KJV).

 

On no other occasion that I know of, does God command or bestow the universe impacting power of his supernatural blessing from heaven upon any people or activity on earth. He is delighted when our names are recorded in His Book of Life. He loves it when we realise the intimacy of whole-hearted worship and the glorious situation-impacting influence of prayer. He is thrilled when the Gospel is made known to those who are lost, hurting and seeking for help and Truth. He smiles when people discover the innate spiritual power and overwhelming authority of His Word. And each time a person discovers any of these keys to living for God, they undergo a magnificent process of personal transformation. They become more like Jesus. But, nowhere does God respond to any of these essential and worthwhile pursuits by commanding His Blessing.

 

There are three key words in this passage – unity, command and blessing.

 

In reverse order, blessing simply means receiving God’s best. When a people live under the blessing of God, they live in, with and through the fullness of the best provisions of God. There is no higher atmosphere in which humans can live. Life, under the blessing of Almighty God, is thrust by God into the wonderful atmosphere and environment which is expressed in Deuteronomy 28: 1-13. Simply put, life is easy, life is peaceful and life is great. People live in health, prosperity and peace.

 

The word command carries the weight of God’s supernatural instruction that cannot be resisted. When God speaks, His universe-creating, world-sustaining, irresistible, all-of-life-impacting will is declared with the whole glory and power of heaven behind it. This is not a request, or an expression of hope. This is not a recommendation or a personal wish for something to be different. When God commands, He opens His holy, sin-crushing, fear-inducing, awe-inspiring, creation-trembling mouth and an indescribable force, under which no human being can stand, is released. And what He speaks, comes into effect. There is no delay, no compromise, and no second best. When God decrees His super-gracious, super-faithful, super-holy and super-loving blessing upon a people, creation has to respond. Clouds move from one side of the earth to the other to bring life-inducing rain. The soil undergoes a total metamorphosis regenerating its original fertility. Human minds receive wisdom beyond their years. Finances and other resources are redirected towards those who are following the ways of God. The economy on earth reflects the economy of heaven. The word shortage doesn’t exist. Division melts, peace rules and the communities and nations around you marvel at the continuous favour you live under. There can be no other outcome when God commands a blessing.

 

Unity is more than putting up with each other. It is more than agreeing with one another. It is more than a common mindset or perspective. It is more than one group of people uniting against another group of people. Unity is oneness. It is oneness of heart, soul, mind and body. Unity is best understood by seeing the demonstration of the single-hearted togetherness of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. They are three, yet they are one.

 

Jesus describes the unity He has with His Father in a number of passages.

 

John 5:19-20 NIV[19] …..”I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. [20] For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.

 

John 14:10 NIV[10] Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

 

Jesus describes the unity He has with the Holy Spirit.

 

John 14:26 NIV[26] But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in myname, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

 

All three were involved in creation. All three were involved in Jesus’ incarnation. All three were involved on the day of Pentecost. All three are involved in everything for all eternity. This is unity. God brought a fourth person into this relationship when He created man. Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden of Eden. They were together. Adam and Eve were in total unity with God and with each other. There was no death, no sickness and no lack. This is the innate power of unity. It is a picture of Deuteronomy 28:1-13.

 

So the world started in unity with God and one another, and it ends in unity with God and with each other.

 

Revelation 21:2-4 NIV[2] I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and hewill live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. [4] He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 

 

WHAT ABOUT DIVISION?

 

Satan is the author and sustainer of division. He brought division between Adam, Eve and God. He brought division between families (Cain and Abel, the children of Adam and Eve); between communities (the flood) and between nations (Genesis 10). Division is the cause of death, disease, despair and destruction.

 

Death occurs because humans are separated (divided) from God. Disease occurs because the cells of the body war (are divided) against themselves. Despair is experienced because the human heart is divided from hope. Destruction occurs when people forcefully take (divide) what belongs to others.

 

Jesus teaches that all kingdoms, cities and homes that allow division will not be able to last long. They will fall because God removes his covering from them.

 

Matthew 12:25 NIV[25] Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.

 

HOW DOES GOD VIEW DIVISION?

 

The greatest division on earth is that between humankind and God. And God detests it so much that He devised the most radical plan that has ever played out on earth to overcome and repair it. He gave His Son Jesus to take all causes of division upon himself so that once again, people could be united with their Heavenly Father. The measures that God took to reconnect us with Himself is an indicator of the measure of the destructive influence of division. Division could only be conquered by the ultimate death of Jesus. Division died on the cross. The cross is the point through which sinners repent of their division (separation) from God, their self-centredness (division) in their relationships with others, and their guilt (division) within themselves. Division is so powerful, so impactful, so all-consuminglyself-centred that the only recourse was for Jesus to die. This informs us in no small way how God views division.

 

Division is unacceptable to God. It is sin worthy of death. It is a spiritual crime that enslaves the poor, kills children, and promotes the highest forms of lust and greed. Division robs families of their God-intended futures, plunders the earth’s resources, turns a blind eye to suffering and condones crime and corruption by its silence. Division has violence as its commander, disease as its captain and strife as its soldiers. Division is what will ultimately cause the destruction of the heavens and earth described in the seven seals of Revelations (Chapters 6-9).

 

Concerning the church of Jesus Christ, great and might advances take place when unity exists.

 

People who aligned themselves with Jesus stood together:

Acts 1:14 NIV [14] Theyall joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

 

God empowered them with His Holy Spirit when they were united:

Acts 2:1-4 NIV [1] When the day of Pentecost came, they were alltogether in one place. [2] Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. [3] They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. [4] All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

 

God saved lost people when His people were united:

Acts 2:38,41 NIV [38] Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…… [41] Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

 

Unity grew a powerful church:

Acts 2:42-47 NIV [42] They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. [43] Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. [44] All the believers were together and had everything in common. [45] Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. [46] Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, [47] praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

 

WHAT IS DIVISION?

 

There are a few facets to division.

 

First, since division originates with Satan it is spiritual. Satan is a spirit being, therefore everything he does has potent spiritual consequences. His spiritual empire has one goal – to prevent unity at all costs. Since unity would see Satan overthrown, he throws everything he can to guard his hard fought for treasures. Division is his god. Division is his most powerful weapon. Division leads to anger, frustration, hatred, criticism, condemnation, weariness, exhaustion, anxiety, worry, unforgiveness, bitterness, and more. Division works!

 

Second, through division, Satan seeks to rob God of His Glory, Honour and Praise by dividing people whom God made in his own image. When he divides them, he conquers them. When he divides them, he robs them of their potential power in Jesus. Divided people are powerless people. They live outside of God’s plan and protection for their lives. A divisive spirit whispers relentlessly in their ears, accusing and blaming others for their situations. Arrogance rears its snake-like head judging others as lesser beings. Demons are assigned to claim portions of territory and to build immovable strongholds on them by keeping people divided. Ruling spirits direct their activities, crafting strategic schemes to keep an area enslaved to them. Roads are marked, homes are targeted, boundaries are drawn, influencers are controlled and followers are falsely pacified to accept things as the way they are because that’s just how the world is.

 

Apathy sneaks into thought patterns, doors are secured, windows are barred, newspapers provide bad news to fuel gossip and a general malaise stupefies the community. Division is normal. Division is acceptable. Division is embraced. Division is exploited.

 

 

 

 

 

HOW SHOULD PEOPLE RESPOND TO DIVISION?

 

 

 

The Bible teachers us to stay away from them:

Romans 16:17 NIV [17] I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

 

We are told to warn divisive people, and have nothing to do with them:

Titus 3:10 NIV [10] Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

 

The Bible teaches us to be comfortable with our place in the church and to be grateful for one another:

1 Corinthians 12:21-26 NIV [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.

 

Division concerning money, on the other hand, leads to death:

Acts 5:3-6 NIV [3] Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? [4] Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” [5] When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. [6] Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

 

The apostles did not tolerate division:

Acts 6:1-4 NIV [1] In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. [2] So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. [3] Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them [4] and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

 

1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV [10] I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

 

 

Paul teaches that division is a sign of worldliness

1 Corinthians 3:3 NIV [3] You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

 

Meetings where there is division, says Paul, do more harm than good:

1 Corinthians 11:17-18 NIV [17] In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. [18] In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.

 

IS UNITY OPTIONAL?

 

We have briefly considered the power of unity and the effect of division. But, to take the discussion one step further, we should ask if unity is just a Christian notion we should aim for or is it a command from God?

 

We find our answer in a number of places.

 

First, God commands us to love Him, love others and love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). He gives us no way out from this. It is not a suggestion, nor is it optional. It is mandatory behavior for the person who professes to have united his spirit and soul with Jesus Christ. He demands an expression in His children that reflects Himself. Since God IS love, we should also love as He loves. Love is dissatisfied with anything less than total unity. Love is the glue behind being of one accord with our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord.

 

Second, the Bible teaches us that if we do not love, the reality is we do not know God. This challenges the person claiming to be a Christian to the core of his being. Even if he put his hand up for an altar call and he came forward for prayer and he has a bible and attends church regularly, this person actually does not know God if he does not love. True salvation results in love. Love is the indicator that a person has turned 180 degrees and has surrendered himself fully, and without resistance, to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

 

1 John 4:7-8 NIV [7] Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. [8] Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

 

Perhaps this explains why division persists in Christ’s church. Because a close examination of our hearts will show that some who believe they are Christians may not be. The reality is that a person who does not love others is not saved. This is the very disconcerting truth. Love and division cannot coexist. They are enemies of one another. Love always seeks to unite.

 

1 Corinthians 13 is so much more than platitudes to be read out at weddings. These are very carefully crafted expressions of who God is and who He expects us to be. It is the trademark, so to speak, of the Christian faith. It is what lost, hurting people should see. It is what people searching for truth evaluate in the Christian. It is what influences them to “give Jesus a try!” They already know division. They have been raised in division. They have been shaped by cultural, financial, educational and hierarchical division. Division is their normal. But they haven’t experienced love, unity and acceptance.

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV [4] Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. [5] It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. [6] Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [7] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

God saves us to be his representatives on earth. He saves us to be viewed as so remarkably different to a divisive world that we become His instruments to woo others to Jesus.

 

2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV [20] We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

 

Third, love is evaluated by our obedience. We work through personal issues, recall what God teaches about loving others, clearly hear from God what is important to Him and then we make choices to stand together to achieve it.

 

John 14:15 NIV [15] “If you love me, you will obey what I command.

 

Jesus loved His Heavenly Father, therefore He obeyed him. He acted like His Father acted. He touched like His Father touched. He healed like His Father healed. He united the marginalised, healed those on the sidelines, set free the oppressed and said what God wanted Him to say. He did this because He loved His Father and He loves us.

 

John 12:49 NIV [49] For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.

 

CONCLUSION

 

It is evident then, that unity is the outworking of the reality that Jesus lives in us. It is the signpost the world is searching for. It is the power of God being demonstrated in a divided world. It is opposite to natural human inclination which has been fueled by Satan. It is an expression of the devil-defeating power of Almighty God. Unity is who God is. It is who we are. It is to be fought for, defended and honoured because unity is the only public sign that we have surrendered and submitted our lives to Him. The world doesn’t see us praying, worshipping or having our quiet times. They see how we speak about one another. They witness how we treat each other. They make decisions about the relevancy of Christianity by our public expressions of unity.

 

John 13:34-35 NIV [34] “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. [35] By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

 

Unity attracts God’s attention. It draws down the mighty spiritual power of heaven to invade families and communities that are bound by the spiritual strongholds of division. Unity crushes demonic boundaries, shatters curses, builds bridges of blessing and heals a nation.

 

Unity IS the body of Christ living like Jesus.

 

And for this reason, when unity is present, God commands a blessing.