“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life for evermore.” Psalm 133
I have always loved these words and the rich picture they create of how good unity is.
Jesus also prayed for all believers as recorded in John 17 v 20-21 that “all of them may be one, Father just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
The unity of believers should be so powerful that it leads others to believe that God sent Jesus.
So why is it that churches so often struggle with disunity?
Firstly, if God’s plan is for the world to know Jesus through the church – the Enemy presumably does not like unity among Christians! There is certainly an element of spiritual warfare here. Our response is to be aware of this and to pray.
Secondly, we all still sin and hurt one another. David Watson’s book ‘Discipleship’ was written in 1981 but has much to say that is relevant to church life today. He refers to an illustration by the philosopher Schopenhauer who said that people are like porcupines who huddle together for warmth but, as soon as they come close, jab and hurt one another, so they separate again. In a similar way as we make ourselves vulnerable in close relationships in the church we can be encouraged and built up, but we can also hurt one another. The temptation is then to pull back to a safe distance to protect ourselves from being hurt again.
Our Christian response is forgiveness – even though there may be many logical reasons not to forgive. We need to forgive the person who has hurt us and in turn we are released from the bitterness of unforgiveness ourselves. This is never easy. The hurt is real. We may not be able to do this ourselves but with God’s help we can. As 1 John 4 v.11-12 says “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.”