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Unity: The ignored appeal
Bible Speaks
Rev. L. Althouse

June 4, 2006
Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Devotional Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:2-9.

When the 19th century was about to end, many Christians looked to the new century, the 20th, as The Christian Century in which would be fulfilled Christ’s command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …” Mt. 28:19)

But, it didn’t happen, did it? It was not The Christian Century and today trends in the 21st century are disquieting, at least in the Western World. I once asked a European friend why the church was dying on the continent. “Well,” she said, “I believe the greatest detriments to the Church are the civil wars that constantly rage within it in full view of the watching world.”

“But, all religions have their divisions,” I argued. “Yes,” she said, “but none of them preach a unity in Christ as Christians do.”

I confess that I do not know enough about Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions to know just how important unity is in them. But I do know that for Paul unity is not optional. It is an imperative: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10)

What the world sees
It is a strong imperative, but one that most of us ignore. We do not achieve unity in our local churches, let alone within denominations and the church worldwide.

In fact, I believe that it is the one imperative we don’t even pretend to obey. We’ve recently read of the anger regarding some cartoons depicting Mohammed in some Danish newspapers. A.C. Oldsen tells us that during World War I, in which the so-called Christian nations were locked into a death struggle for all to see, a cartoon appeared indicating that Japanese, Chinese and African people viewed this struggle with bewilderment. In the cartoon, grinning Japanese was exclaiming, “How these Christians love one another!”

That cartoon is relevant today. We may not be killing each other, but the divisiveness with which we regard and treat each other certainly constitutes a behavioral heresy and hypocrisy that undermines the gospel. Some time ago I read that the reason that Islam was able to supplant Greek and Coptic Christianity in Egypt was that, while Christians proclaimed unity and equality, they obviously didn’t practice it. At the time, Islam offered Egyptians a sense of brotherhood that Egyptian Christianity did not.

Is Christ divided?
But, you may ask, how can we fulfill his call to be “united in the same mind”? We aren’t of the same mind about how to take communion, homosexuality, the authority of the Bible, ordaining women, or even what color we’ll paint the church doors!

I don’t think that Paul commanded us to think alike, but to be of one mind in being united in Christ, in overcoming of our differences of opinion so that we can act together to be Christ’s body in the world. “Is Christ divided?” (1:13)

No, and if we are, then we are not in Christ. Challenged to act for Christ, we need not first sit down and make certain our beliefs are the same, nor our verbalizations of what we believe.

Edwin Settle tells of a little girl who was ill and somehow wandered away from her home, getting lost in the tall weeds and grass, which stretched for a long distance from the farmhouse. The farmer called his neighbors to come and help him search for her. But, their search proved futile and it was getting darker and colder. Then, one of them suggested that they join hands and walk together through it so that the girl would not be missed. In less than a half hour they found her, but it was too late. She was dead. Stunned, the farmer cried. “In God’s name, why didn’t we join hands before?”

This farm news was published in the May 31, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.