Church Unity Isn't Optional
“The United States is more divided today than at any point in its history.” While clearly hyperbole (I seem to remember a period in the 1800s in which the country was pretty divided), that saying notes the continuing descent into hyperpolarization and an “us vs. them” mentality in the United States and around the world. In a country where both sides of the political aisle see the other as true enemies, lines are drawn within churches to alienate and exclude those who are of a different political opinion. Republican or Democrat ideology replaces Scripture as the teaching points on Sunday mornings. Fellowship is broken. Relationships are fractured. Churches are tearing apart at the same rate as the surrounding culture.
However, the divisiveness of politics is not an excuse for disunity in the church. As churches crumble under the weight of conflicting political ideologies, the divisive nature of humans disrupts God’s glorious design for His church. Rather than displaying a countercultural unity and peace, churches today are content to discontinue fellowship over any area of disagreement.
But that is not God’s design. Ephesians teaches about the wisdom and power God displayed in bringing Jews and non-Jews, the clean and the unclean, Roman citizens and “barbarians,” those who grew up thinking they were the people of God and those who grew up far from the Lord, people who were polar opposites in every respect, into a single entity called the church. To these people who grew up hating each other, alienating each other, speaking and writing against each other, warring against each other, Paul wrote the following:
“I [Paul] therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6, ESV).
As the body of Christ, each of us shares a common connection that should unite us all with an unbreakable identity. Each of us has been set free from the power of sin and death by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have each been brought together, as the redeemed people of God, into the organization God created called the church, built on the foundation of Jesus.
Please read that last statement again: The church is built upon Jesus, not a political ideology. The church is not built upon abortion views or caring for the poor; both are incredibly important elements of the Christian life with eternal ramifications, but they are not the foundation—the common thread for all true believers—on which the unity of the church rests. We need to have fruitful discussions on the biblical view of abortion and welfare, among numerous topics affecting our lives today, but we need to do so as the unified people of God seeking to glorify the Lord by our words and deeds. Disagreement is fine, but disunity is unacceptable.
Posts arguing that no true Christians can be Republicans or Democrats threaten to discontinue fellowship among certain believers over criteria that has been nonexistent for the vast majority of church history. No true Christian can believe in more than one God. No true Christian can deny the full divinity and humanity of Jesus. No true Christian can live completely unchanged by the power of the gospel after his “conversion.” These are non-negotiables outlined in Scripture, separating those who are part of the church and those who do not have a right relationship with God through Jesus. However, one’s voting preferences and cultural viewpoints are not part of that list. While right beliefs and practices based on biblical principles do exist, the process of growing in each of those areas should be undertaken by a unified church, helping each other grow further into the image of Jesus.
The church cannot stoop to an “us vs. them” mentality. Like a building with a shaky foundation, the church fractures and crumbles when we decide political viewpoints are more important than the beautiful message of the gospel. Unity of the church is not optional. It is not something we scrap as soon as cultural disunity abounds. Do not contribute to the division; use your words, your gifts, your abilities to build up the body further into the image of Jesus. The church—including your local church—should stand as a countercultural beacon of hope, peace, patience, and unity in a culture that is growing more divided by the day.