Publication: One-to-One, Summer 2012
Aesop is credited with first saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.” Of course, he likely said it in Greek and it probably sounded something like this: Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες έχουμε φτάσει, διαιρείται έχουμε πτώση
Now that I have dazzled you with quoting from Aesop and my incredible knowledge of Greek and the powers of internet translation services, let’s look at the real life-and-death issue of unity. The world in which we live today seems to be in a state of disintegration. That is, as relationships, structures, and cultures “disintegrate” from God and one another, the whole world is falling apart.
I think we can agree that in these challenging times, it’s more vital than ever for the people of God to be rightly related to Him and to one another … and to our common mission. This is not simply a matter of survival for us, but for a world that is lost in darkness and despair. We are called to be salt and light. What good is salt that has lost its flavor? And how great is the darkness if the light is extinguished?
The Good News for us is that God is in the business of reconciliation and redemption. He not only calls us to Himself, but He gives His power and grace so that we can respond to His call. And in Christ, we find ourselves reconciled to God and to our brothers and sisters.
The better related we are to Him and to each other, the more effective we become as agents of His reconciliation out in the world. Pastor Karl Strader once said, “A broken and divided Church offers no hope for a broken and divided world.” Conversely, a body of believers that is healed and rightly related provides hope and a model to the world of what is possible in Christ Jesus.
Unity produces an enhanced ability to see the Lord and to hear His voice. The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom”. But shalom doesn’t simply mean an absence of conflict; it means that everything is working together in harmony and completeness. It is where relationships and structures have integrity and work to complement one another and the purpose for which they were created.
The Apostle Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Christians in Corinth: “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
Throughout 1 Corinthians 12, Paul outlines many diverse spiritual gifts and how they work together. He also discusses how to use spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 14, especially the gifts of tongues and prophecy. I was once asked to do a series on 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14, but I insisted that we must also include 1 Corinthians 13, because any discussion of how to use the gifts is incomplete without applying the love of God.
Ultimately, unity comes about through the Holy Spirit of God, and by our resolute commitment to Him and each other. David paints a picture for us in Psalm 133: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore” (Psalm 133:1-3).
Where there is unity, the Lord commands a blessing of life! He commands it! Jesus is praying for our unity (see John 17). God commands blessings upon it. Therefore, we look —not at present circumstances—but at God’s Sovereign purpose and promise, and find there our hope.
Scripture Reference: 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 1 Corinthians 14, 1 Corinthians 13, Psalm 133:1-3, John 17
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.