Keeping Unity in the Local Church

Avoiding the Earthquakes of Disunity

In Psalm 133:1, King David wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” God desires His children to dwell together in peace and unity. How accurate are the famous lines, “To live above with saints we love, that will be glory. To live below, with the saints we know, that’s a different story.” Whether it be your family, friendships, or church, the Word of God can guide you to peace and unity.

Through no fault of my own, I once found myself immersed in a struggle of opinions among pastors. I was truly in a fog and did not have the answer. I remembered a sign I saw in the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The druggist had accidentally given young George Bailey a bottle of medicine to deliver containing poison. What should he do? He saw a sign on the drugstore wall that said, “Ask Dad—he knows!” Following that advice, I called my father-in-law, John Friesen, a godly and wise Canadian pastor. He listened and thoughtfully shared with me Ephesians 4:3, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Pastor Friesen stated that God creates unity, but He commands us to “endeavor” or “to make every effort; to diligently” keep the peace. Filled with that godly wisdom, we approached the situation “endeavoring to keep the unity” and the Lord solved the issue.

What are the causes of division in a local church? Solomon insightfully wrote, “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10). The Corinthian church wrote the handbook on how to tear apart the unity of a local church. The list of dividers included: taking sides over personalities, pride, immorality, misuse of gifts, dishonoring the Lord’s Supper, and doctrinal confusion over the resurrection. We could add some twenty-first century dividers to this list: a lack of preaching sound doctrine, apathy toward the Great Commission, and an overemphasis on a preference or favorite standard, to name a few.

What is my responsibility to maintain or restore unity? Spirit-filled people who love Jesus Christ with all of their heart and soul will find a way to have unity with other Spirit-filled believers. Yet Paul recognized that some people will choose to be obstinate when he said, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own choices and attitudes, not the choices of others.

What happens when conflict comes despite our best efforts to keep the peace? Conflict is not always bad or destructive. God is powerful enough to bring good benefits out of conflicts (Romans 8:28-29). Conflicts can provide opportunities to trust God in a greater way, serve others, and become more Christ-like, even when being mistreated. Here are the steps to take when conflict comes:

Glorify God

The Apostle Paul urged the Corinthians by saying, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). If God allows someone to mistreat me, then I need to ask the Lord, “How can I please and honor You in this situation?”

Get the Log Out of Your Own Eye

The Lord Jesus wants us to ask ourselves the question, “Am I part of the problem, or am I part of the solution?” We need to check our attitudes against those we find in Philippians 4:2-9.

Gently Restore

Having a pastor’s heart did not come naturally to me. As a new Christian, I saw everything as black and white. Then during my last year of Bible college, I became a floor supervisor over forty wild-eyed freshmen. That year I asked God to give me a “shepherding heart.”

Go and Be Reconciled

I have learned that Jesus blesses “the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). Have you heard someone say, “I forgive them. I just don’t want to have anything to do with them again.” Think how we would feel if God said that to us. But our God will never say that! He has forgiven the believer, and we are reconciled to Him. We are to follow His example.

Keeping unity both personally and within your church will take effort. Satan loves to sow discord, but we have been commanded to keep our relationships strong. God has set the example for forgiveness and restoration, and by God’s Spirit, we can dwell together in unity.

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