by David Eubanks
If Jesus were to appear at a conference of church elders and leaders today, what admonition would He give them? Of course, no one can answer that question except Him. I am fairly convinced, however, that high on His list of concerns would be the disunity that plagues so many American congregations, including those in the Christian Churches / Churches of Christ.
We simply do not take division in the body of Christ as seriously as God does. David in the Psalms long ago highlighted the essential goodness of brothers “dwelling together in unity” (133:1). On the night that He instituted the Lord’s Supper and was betrayed, Jesus prayed earnestly for His apostles, and also for us, that we “all may be one” (John 17:21). I have often reflected on the significance of that prayer in that context. Of the hundreds of issues that would face the church in the centuries ahead, Jesus chose in that moment, with the cross looming over Him, to focus His prayer for us on unity.
The truth is that, perhaps, has the Devil’s most effective and destructive weapon against The Church not been persecution, but division? Paul had a keen sense of the danger and damage of division and the great need for unity in the body. He urged the Ephesians to make every effort to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). In fact, the great apostle was constantly urging the readers of his letters to be unified in mind, spirit, word, and love.
Strong, dynamic, growing, influential churches can be, and have been, reduced by division in a short time to mere shadows of their former selves. Much of the time the issues that brought on the division could have been resolved by Godly, wise, Spirit-led elders who placed a high value on unity and acted unselfishly, prudently, and expeditiously.
I well remember years ago speaking at the setting-apart of a young couple to missionary service by their congregation, with full support from the church. It was a dream-come-true for both the people and the couple and their family. The young man’s father was one of the elders. A few years later the elders had to bring the couple home, for both doctrine and practice that the elders could not condone. The preacher related to me that the only way the church weathered the storm was that the missionary’s father/elder stood with the elders in their unanimous decision, even though he did not disown his son. The church survived and thrived.
On the other hand, I asked my barber a few weeks ago how her church was doing. She replied “So! So!” She then went on to tell me that the congregation was suffering, because a few people were creating strife, and the leaders were ignoring it, pretending it did not exist, trying to please everyone, even those creating the division.
How many times is this scenario repeated? Pray and act that it not happen among you.