Power in True Unity

Hands United

1 Corinthians 1:10 “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.”

To the best of my knowledge, the Lord God Almighty does not favor a particular decorating style. He doesn’t have a favorite color. He doesn’t care what kind of food we serve at church dinners. It doesn’t make any difference to him if people start worshiping him at 8 or 8:30 in the morning on Sunday, or if it is 10:30 or 11. He is equally pleased with a hymn written 5 years ago or a hymn written 500 years ago (as long as neither one says anything false or misleading about him).

But I know of churches that have blown themselves up about just these kinds of issues. This is not the place to pick up your marbles and go home. Here is where we can all “agree to disagree,” and then let it go. If we hold out for our own way too long, and whine and complain and keep people stirred up about the issue after the decision is made, we will only get in the way of the gospel work the Lord wants his church to do.

But how about the church’s response to incest? What about the idea that Jesus didn’t really leave his grave on the Sunday after he was crucified, and none of us are ever going to leave our graves, either? Those were a couple of the issues in Corinth. Can we really leave people with the idea that one person’s idea is just as good as another’s on these issues? Disagreements on the kind of behavior God has clearly commanded in his word, or the things God has done to save us from our sins, truly divide heart from heart and soul from soul. When God’s word has spoken on an issue, there is only one way to preserve the unity, only one path to true unity: agreement based on God’s word.

That’s not hard to understand, is it? Paul isn’t suggesting something that seems weird, is he? If we agree, then we get rid of divisions, and “you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” Isn’t that where we expect unity to happen? Real unity takes place when you share the same way of thinking. If you are looking for a mate, you don’t look for someone who thinks the opposite as you do on all the things you consider important, all the goals and purposes you have for the future. Opposites may attract in some ways, but not opposites on what’s important in life or what you expect out of the relationship. That’s a recipe for disaster. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Better have the important things in common if you want to stay united.

A united church that speaks Christ’s message with one heart and one voice, not all sorts of little competing messages and ideas, gives a powerful testimony to a world that desperately needs the gospel. For hundreds of years so-called “scholars” in Christian universities and seminaries have been picking away at the biblical account of Jesus’ life. “Virgins don’t give birth,” they say. “Water doesn’t change into wine,” at least not without a lot of grape juice added and a few months to ferment. “Dead bodies don’t come back to life and leave their graves,” except in zombie movies. “Modern, scientific people understand that miracles aren’t real,” they say. They think their words of human wisdom give Christianity a boost. In reality they are only emptying the cross of Christ of its power.

Do you know the most powerful story I ever heard? It’s the one about the father whose son rejected him and ran away from home with half of the inheritance. Or maybe it’s the one about the Shepherd who was willing to fight to save his sheep from the wolves. Or maybe it’s the one about the King who prepared a wedding feast for his son, but none of the people he invited were willing to come.

And the father didn’t just write his son off and turn his back on him. He waited for him to come home with open arms. And the Shepherd didn’t turn and run when the fight became dangerous for him. He laid down his own life to save his sheep. And the King didn’t come in wrath and fury to destroy the people on his guest list. He didn’t cancel the feast. He found others and invited anyone who would come. You know that these aren’t just stories. They are retellings of the true story, the history, of the God who so loved a lost and rebellious world that he didn’t destroy it. He sent his one and only Son to die on a cross to save it. He died on a cross to save me. Let’s all agree with what God has revealed, starting with his saving love. Then we will agree with each other, and the cross of Christ will show its power.

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