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Unity is Relationship - Part 1

26th January 2018

Last week my church and I were involved with other local churches in what's called the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity". I was asked to speak at a joint service and, when I stopped to pray about what to say, I realized that the most important aspect of Christian unity is not between churches or denominations, but between a believer and God, and the second most important is between two Christians. So I would like to encourage you to draw near to God, and to seek unity with whichever Christian you find most difficult.

As Paul wrote to two Christian women in Philippi:

Philippians 4v2
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.

We can't expect to agree about every point of doctrine or practice. Some of us will be Calvinist and others Arminian. Some will be Premillennial and others Amillennial. (For the record, I'm Calvinist and Amillennial, but others in my church are Arminian and Premillennial, and we get on just fine). Some will prefer one style of worship and some another. People will have different ideas about church finances, or leadership or membership. But we can still agree with each other in the Lord.

We probably agree about 99% of doctrine. We can agree that it's OK to see some things differently. We can agree that the other person is just as much of a Christian as I am: just as saved, just as loved, just as forgiven, and just as entitled to study the Scriptures for himself. And we can agree to be nice to each other.

We can also agree to be nice about each other. Why are some of us so quick to criticize each other? As Paul wrote:

Romans 14v4
Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Love and acceptance between brothers and sisters in Christ are fundamentally important. Jesus said:

John 13v34-35
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

And the New Testament is full of exhortations to live at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. For example, John writes:

1 John 4v7-12, 16b-21
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

If A Christian fails to love any other Christian, then that Christian is not living the Christian life. His attitude towards his brother or sister is utterly unlike Christ's attitude towards him. That remains true even if the other Christian has sinned grievously against him or someone he loves, or is uniquely irritating and difficult. It's challenging, isn't it? But Christ forgave us all our sins, and treats us as if we were perfect. And we must treat our brothers and sisters in the same way.

Next week, I'd like to continue this by studying some more important passages on this subject.