Unity, what a wonderful word. It carries with it a feeling of comfort and security. Much more can be accomplished by teams, businesses, and the body of Christ when unity is present. It was observed by the Lord concerning the people of Babel that nothing that they proposed to do would be withheld from them. (Genesis 11:6) The reason for their prospect of success was that they were of one language and one purpose (“they are one”). While it brings satisfaction and even success not everyone has a proper perspective of what real unity is. On the other hand, if we mention the word division everyone knows exactly what we are talking about. It has a negative connotation and is generally defined by differences.

Unity is not just the absence of division. It may be that everyone is going along with an idea or action but without supporting the idea or action. It may be that a person has a great deference for conflict. Or perhaps fear of intimidation, isolation, or emotional harm keeps a person from voicing disagreement.  So we have an action without opposition but possibly lacking support.

So how much agreement is necessary for real unity?

Must we agree in matters of opinion? It is impossible that we will all have the same opinion on nearly any subject. We recognize that there are matters in which the Holy Spirit did not give us specific direction. In these matters we can sometimes rely on principles given on similar subjects. At other times we can only use our best reasoning and logic.

Sadly, these do not always bring agreement. The result is often a lack of unity at best and

division at worst.

Is there a way to avoid feelings being hurt, relationships being destroyed, and souls being lost? You may think that a jump in logic just occurred. Why would a disagreement imply any of those things? The proper answer would be that such should not imply any of those consequences. However, I have witnessed all those outcomes to disagreements.

Why? What could lead Christian men and women to disagree on some matter of opinion so strongly that they destroy relationships and souls? Without judging anyone’s motive let me share my observation on the answer to this question. Some are immature and have not yet grown to the point of understanding the proper place of opinion. In Romans 14:1 Paul says to: “Receive one who is weak in the faith.” This person may have been ignorant of God’s laws or else misapplied what they did know. Interestingly, the person described as weak here is the stricter law keeper. He was binding matters of opinion so Paul says: “but not to disputes over doubtful things.”

One does not have to give up his liberty in Christ over matters of opinion. So how do we broach this matter of agreement? I suggest it is done with great desire for the good of the brother for whom Christ died. Again referring to Paul’s writing this time in Romans 12:10: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” Most division over matters of opinion is because of pride, selfishness, and carnality (1 Corinthians 3:3), which are all signs of spiritual immaturity (1 Corinthians 3:2). This shows the need for teaching, but one must give great effort to maintaining the unity of the body in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1).

The importance of this issue is shown in Paul’s admonition in verse 15, “Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.” Even stronger are the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:7: “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” It is obvious that we would not want to be the one who was the cause of division, and certainly not division which caused harm to the body of Christ.

So how do we achieve unity when not in agreement? Amos writes in the very well know passage Amos 3:3: “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” This points to the necessity of agreement in unity—walking together. The problem is that in this passage God is saying that He cannot walk with Israel because they do not obey His commandments. They are not in agreement, God is not going to change, and so there is no unity. The result was that God was going to send punishment for their disobedience.

This brings us to another consideration. Can we have unity inside or outside the body of Christ when the disagreement is concerning whether to obey God’s word? Can we just agree to disagree concerning doctrinal issues? Paul says to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” Unity is not always possible. If it is to be had, then it must be based on the common faith in Christ Jesus. To the church at Rome Paul exhorted Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

It is not always possible to live peaceably, nor to live in unity with all men. To those at Corinth so divided over various issues Paul pleads in 1 Corinthians 1:10: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” This did not prevent division but it did provide the basis of unity.

Is unity a thing to be grasped? Certainly, without a doubt. It is desirable, it is necessary to win a world lost in sin. I once had a Bible study with a person in Peru. As we finished up the study the man said: “How can I know what is right? You tell me one thing this week; there was another group here saying to keep the Sabbath last week.” He was confused, and I must assume, so is the world when they see such a divergence of messages coming from a group claiming to be the body of Christ.

When we start caring enough about the right things, we will have unity. When we care enough about the church for which our Lord died, we will seek only what is best for the church. Our selfish desires and whims will be put away for the purpose of promoting the body of Christ. When we care enough about our brothers and sisters in the family of God, we will do all we possibly can to promote that person’s spiritual welfare. When we care more about heaven and spending eternity there, we will do all we can to be sure that not only our own soul, but those of our family, friends, and every other person possible will be there.

Agreement and Unity, what a wonderful concept!

It is so valuable that we must do all we can to walk with God and then we can walk together. Agreed?

By Randy Pyle