3 Keys to Seeking Unity in the Church
Have you ever had a disagreement with someone at church, and it changed not only your relationship, but the whole dynamic of church? Suddenly, you’re no longer happy there, the atmosphere changes, and your desire to worship wanes.
I once was so offended by something said to me at church that I stopped going for about a month. I visited other churches, but my heart was so wounded, I didn’t want to go back to my own church.
It wasn’t even a personal affront. It was a statement about someone else that I found so offensive, I fell into the enemy’s trap of judgment, criticism, and disdain toward not only the person who said it, but toward all those in the church I assumed agreed with the same philosophy.
Perhaps you’ve been in a similar situation and allowed the affront to cause you to withdraw, criticize, or gossip.
Maybe it wasn’t even something all that important, but suddenly you feel hurt or no longer included among a group of friends. Or maybe you are the one who has some issue with another person, and it keeps you from worshiping God as you know you should.
One thing I love about the Word of God is that we can always find answers for the problems we face in its pages. Paul once addressed a similar situation in the church at Philippi.
“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 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 84
Let’s look at three things we can learn from this snippet of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi.
Disagreements need to be addressed.
First, the disagreement between these two women was serious enough that Paul felt the need to address it from prison in a letter that was to be read to the whole church.
I think if we stopped sometimes to truly think about why we’re upset, offended, or disagreeable, we would realize that it’s not worth bringing division within the body.
If our disagreements were brought before the whole church we might think twice about holding onto them! The truth is that even petty disagreements can cause major strife and division within the church. And Satan loves to divide and distract us from our mission of loving God and loving others.
Paul knew that if these two women did not agree with one another, the church would suffer as a whole. If one woman decided to leave the fellowship, more disunity could follow, and the growth of the church would be hindered.
Disagreements can be overcome.
Second, Paul knew these women well enough to believe that with a little encouragement, they would set aside their differences and come to an agreement.
These were women who had served beside him in ministry. He knew their hearts and their desire to serve the Lord. Paul was confident they could be persuaded to lay aside their differences for the sake of the kingdom.
“…then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”Philippians 2:2
Throughout his letters, Paul encourages the pursuit of unity, peace, and humility towards others.
Some matters are disputable.
Third, Paul doesn’t take sides, which means their disagreement wasn’t a matter of doctrinal truth. If it had been, Paul would have clearly pointed out who was right and who was wrong in the situation.
There will be times that we disagree with someone over a doctrinal issue that must be addressed. We should always stand firm on the truth of God’s Word and be willing to confront any error. But most of the time, our disagreements are over areas of offense that can be worked out.
In my situation, I took one comment and judged someone’s heart and intention based on it, rather than taking the time to talk to the person about what they meant and how we should view it from a biblical perspective.
We sometimes tend to judge the heart and intentions of others based on something they said or did. But we can’t know what is in another’s heart. We shouldn’t assume the worst but instead think the best of our brothers and sisters in the Lord and have genuine conversations with them.
“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 one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”Ephesians 4:3-6
Oftentimes, we fail to understand that we are all at different stages of growth in our walk with the Lord. We need to give others grace to grow and be patient with them as they learn.
“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.”Romans 14:1
Disputable matters are those things that don’t change the gospel message. Even if we think we are right, we can choose to lay down our opinion for the sake of the gospel. Rather than striving to be right, judging one another, or spreading gossip, we can actually agree with one another and move on.
Agreeing with one another doesn’t mean one party has to give up her position, but rather we agree together in our purpose, and that is to serve Christ together as one.
Jesus Himself prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:20-23). We may not always agree on an issue, but we can agree to serve God together, contending side by side for the gospel.
Growing in spiritual maturity means that we give up our right to be right and love others with humility and grace.
Is there someone with whom you need to agree together in the Lord for the sake of the church and the gospel? Is holding onto that offense worth the unity of your church?
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”Romans 15:5-6
Let’s be women who walk in spiritual maturity, willing to lay aside our differences, give others grace to grow, and assume the best in each other. Then we can focus on the mission God has called us to in Christ Jesus. Lives may very well depend on it.
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