Last year, I broke my foot. I was goofing around with my friends, and I made the stupid decision to jump off the top of a shed in the woods. The ground was slick with melting snow and mud, and when I landed, I felt a distinct “CRUNCH” in the middle of my left foot. The pain took my breath away. Unable to move it in any way, I immediately suspected that it was broken. Over the next nine months that it took to heal, I learned just how important that foot is to my life. As I hobbled around on crutches and lived with the inconvenience of a huge cast, my entire body had to work hard to make up for the temporary loss of my foot. Even after I was out of a cast, my left leg was weak from lack of use, and the mobility of my foot was limited. It took months to actually walk normally again.
What if I had refused to admit anything was wrong with my foot? What if I had tried to simply resume life as normal? It would have been completely impossible, and ridiculous for me to try.
But isn’t this what we do at times when we are divided from our brothers and sisters in Christ? We try to ignore the interpersonal issues and offenses between us instead of admitting that there are things we need to work through.
This is certainly what was happening at the church in Corinth. The Corinthian believers had some major sin issues in their lives, and this was causing divisions in the church. They were broken and separated, yet they were carrying on in pride as if there was nothing wrong.
God Desires Unity
The Corinthian believers were living in a lot of sin that might seem more important than divisions in the church. I mean, sexual immorality and drunkenness are a bigger deal that a little bit of bickering, right? But even though these issues were prevalent in the church family, the very first sin Paul addresses is the divisions between them.
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters” (1 Corinthians 1:10-11 NLT).
Unity appears to be at the top of God’s priorities. Before dealing with anything else, he wants them to come together and begin to mend the rifts between them. They are the household of God, they are family! Paul would go on later in the book to reinforce the idea that each one of them was a valuable piece of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).
In our churches today don’t we tend to be much like the Corinthians? It is human nature to bicker and fight, to debate and quarrel. Wherever there are people working closely together, there will most likely be conflict. We are divided over everything from doctrine to paint colors in the church lobby. And divisions in the church usually lead to more issues; backbiting, gossiping, and cliques are sure to follow whenever there are sides to take. Often we find that we are more passionate about being right than we are about pursuing the unity God desires.
Disagree, Don’t Divide
Keep in mind that it isn’t wrong to disagree, it’s wrong to divide. The problem in Corinth wasn’t that they were all walking with the Lord and simply coming to different conclusions. They weren’t lovingly and graciously seeing issues from different angles. No, they were lining up behind the people they thought were right and taking pride in doing so. They were speaking maliciously about those who weren’t in their “group”. They were against each other, and they weren’t stopping to address the issues and reconcile with one another. When they should have been full of godly sorrow over the divisions in the church, they were instead promoting more of it. They were living as if nothing was broken, and the church was completely dysfunctional.
Our Responsibility to the Church
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have a responsibility to the Church. All other believers are your brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of their status, lifestyle, personality, strengths, or weaknesses. This bond is stronger than blood; it is a spiritual bond only found in the family of God.
As you interact with your local church that is just one piece of Christ’s universal Church, He asks you to shoulder the responsibility of unity. Ask yourself, am I divided from anyone in this assembly of believers? Have I crossed the line of simply disagreeing in love to having broken fellowship with any of my brothers and sisters? Is there anyone that I am avoiding, angry toward in my heart, or criticizing and badmouthing to other people? Am I doing all I can to uphold the precious unity the God so values within His Church?
Divisions in the Church don’t affect just one or two people. They deeply affect the entire Body. The Lord would encourage us as His people to “live in harmony with each other”.
Practical Steps Toward Unity
Sometimes the interpersonal issues we have with other can believers can be so hurtful. We as human beings have so much power to injure one another in so many ways. Maybe the thought of pursuing unity seems completely impossible to you as you consider the many ways you have been offended and hurt by other Christians. As painful as it may be, God still desires your relationships to be reconciled.
Here are a few practical steps you can take towards unity with the other believers in your life:
-Admit to yourself and God any anger, favoritism, or judgmental attitudes you may have in your heart.
-Ask God to help you depend on Him to produce a willingness and desire for unity in your heart and mind.
-Talk to your pastor or elder about struggles you may have had with others in the church. Ask forgiveness of him if you have been the cause of any disunity.
-Talk to believers in your church with whom you struggle to get along. Be honest about how you have been offended or hurt by them. Be willing to ask forgiveness if you have done the same to them.
-Seek to promote unity in the Body when you are with your close friends. Encourage them to be open and honest about struggles they are having in the Church in a godly way.
-Continually pray for unity between the believers in your church.
Divisions in the Church can tear us apart from the inside out. Don’t live ignoring unhealthy and dysfunctional brokenness. Be a believer who values and pursues unity for our family the way Christ does.