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Unity is Relationship - Part 2

2nd February 2018

Christians unity is not fundamentally about denominations. It's fundamentally about our relationships with God and with each other. If there is just one brother or sister with whom I am not in peaceful relationship, then there is a breach in Christian unity, and I need to try to fix it. Sometimes there's nothing I can do, but I should do all I can to find a way for us to be reconciled. Jesus said:

Matthew 5v21-24
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled your brother; then come and offer your gift."

Are you angry with any of your brothers or sisters in Christ? Let go of your anger, or you're in grave danger. Have you sinned against any of your brothers or sisters in Christ? Go to them and apologize. Has a brother or sister sinned against you? Forgive them.

In the New Covenant, we don't offer gifts at an altar. But we do offer worship every Sunday before the throne of God. The application for us of Jesus's words, "leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled your brother; then come and offer your gift." must surely be: Before the next time you come to church to offer worship to God, be reconciled to your brother or sister.

God loves our worship. But He loves it even more when we love our brothers and sisters and choose to be reconciled. Love is more important than singing.

Paul wrote:

Romans 15v1-7
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbour for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
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.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Whenever you have an argument or a "falling out" with your brother in Christ, you must think that you're right and he's wrong, you're wise and he's foolish, or you're righteous and he's unrighteous. In Paul's language, you think you're strong and he's weak. Well, if you're sure you're strong and he's weak, the infallible word of God instructs you to bear with what you consider to be his failings.

If you think you're the one who's strong, then the Bible requires you to please your weaker brother, to do him good. If you criticize your brother, you will probably make him weaker. If you seek peace and common ground with your brother, you'll probably make him stronger.

We - especially we who [think we] are strong - are not here to please ourselves; we're here to do good to others. This often involves going along with an idea that we know - or think we know - is flawed.

Of course there are limits to this. We must sometimes admonish our brother, but let's always do so gently and kindly. Also, we are also responsible before God to refuse to participate in heresy or anything that damages the church. But weaker brothers and sisters are also part of the church. There is a balance to be struck between helping the whole church and helping the individual Christian. That balance can be difficult to find sometimes, but we know that the best way to proceed has nothing to do with pleasing ourselves. Especially if we think we're the strong ones.

Jesus was the perfect example of a person who did not please himself. He allowed Himself to be betrayed, insulted, tortured and killed for our sake. And we who are strong should follow his example by sacrificing our own well-being for the good of others. That's part of the price of unity. Real love is sacrificial, as genuinely strong Christians know.

Paul prays to the God who gives endurance and encouragement because real, continuing, sacrificial love requires endurance, and we need God's encouragement.

And Paul prays that God would give us a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. Amen.

The updated NIV rephrases that as: the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had - the attitude that is willing to lay down our lives for our friends (John 15v13). Only when we are united, only when we have Christ's sacrificial love towards all our brothers and sisters, will the church truly glorify God. 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 everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Some seek to glorify God by building a magnificent cathedral. Others by writing a beautiful song, or preaching a helpful sermon. These are all good, of course, but real glory comes from the sacrificial love that seeks the weaker Christian's well-being.

The sacrifice that brings unity comes from the strong, not from the weak.