Since the beginning of the church, the effort towards unity has been challenging. The importance of getting Christian belief and behavior right, coupled with different interpretations of Scripture, leads to very strong feelings and difficulties in finding the one, true church. Another challenge to unity is geography and culture. Southern congregations and Northern congregations may look different. Also churches filled with people of different ethnicities and social classes may look different as well. But church unity is a challenge we must pursue. Here are three reasons why it’s important for God’s church to be unified as one.
Unity is Commanded. Jesus passionately prayed that his followers would be one and as unified as the Godhead. Why? “So that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). Paul stresses this unity in his epistles as he refers to the church as one body (Ephesians 1:22-23), a family (Ephesians 5:22-6:4), a plant (Romans 15:26-27), and a building (Ephesians 2:20). When we emphasize the love we have for our brethren and treat one another equally, we are fulfilling the command of our Lord to be unified in Christ.
Unity is Evangelistic. A unified, peaceful church is one of the strongest evidences of the truth of the gospel. In a world as fragmented and divisive as ours, our unity stands out. The church should be a place where natural enemies meet together and treat one another well (Galatians 3:28). Paul told the brethren to “endeavor to keep unity in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3) and to be united in the same mind and judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:35).
Unity is Protective. Highs and lows in the history of the church tend to correspond to the presence or absence of persecution. When things are comfy for the church, it finds reasons to squabble and divide. When focus is needed or persecution comes, unity takes on a bit more urgency. As our society begins to marginalize Christianity it will be necessary for us to protect and to encourage one another. Satan is leading an attack against each one of us. As we encourage each other through the times we meet together (Hebrews 10:24-25) we will find greater strength in our numbers. It is important for us to treat one another as brethren and to show love at all times.
Our desire for unity is a fulfillment to the prayer of Jesus and is necessary for us to be the church that God has designed throughout the Ages.