Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Source and Importance of Unity

In Philippians 1:27 Paul exhorts them to “only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”.  It would make little sense for him to be saying “live in such a way that you earn what Christ has purchased”.  Instead what he is saying is “live in such a way that you accurately display the worth of the gospel of Christ”. 

It’s interesting then how he expounds on that exhortation.  What he mostly speaks of in the next 3 verses is unity around the gospel and suffering for the sake of Christ.  If you really think about it though it’s not all that surprising that unity and suffering would display the worth of the gospel of Christ.

Consider Jesus’ early disciples. 

One follower of Jesus was Simon the Zealot.  A Zealot was a member of a Jewish sect that refused to pay tribute to those dirty Romans.  Zealots abhorred the fact that many of their people were selling out to Rome.  Eventually this led to an assassination attempt against not only Roman leaders but also any Jews that cooperated with these pagans. 

Another follower of Jesus was Matthew/Levi the tax collector.  A tax collector was the definition of a sell out to Rome.  They not only paid taxes to Rome they actually partnered with them in collecting the taxes.  And most, of course, took opportunities to pocket a little of theses taxes for themselves.  Tax collectors stole from their own people. 

Before Christ if you would have ran into Simon the Zealot and Levi the tax collector on the streets you probably would have had to break up a fist fight—or maybe worse.  These dudes would not have gotten along.  For one man what drove him was Jewish nationality.  For the other man what drove him was a dollar and if that meant getting it from Rome then so be it. 

But look at what the gospel does.

Simon the Zealot (who probably still carried a deep flame of patriotism) is now eating meals with the once sell-out Levi (who probably still felt a little sympathy for Rome).  What happened that made Simon and Levi ministry partners?  The gospel of Christ became more valuable to Simon than his nationalism and more important to Levi than his money. 

We communicate the value of the gospel by not only our response to suffering but by our unity with one another.  When issues like Calvinism/Traditionalism, shag/berber carpet, premillenial/amillenial/postmillenial, Democrat/Republican, Yankees fan/having a soul, dominate our time, conversations, and ministry we are communicating that these issues are more valuable than the gospel. 

Disunity that comes from non-essential (gospel-centered) things proves that something higher than Jesus has hold of our affections.  That also means that the way out of disunity is not to continuously cry, “Unity, unity, unity” but instead it is to raise our affections for Christ.  It’s as A.W. Tozer rightly said years ago:

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.

What does your unity/disunity say about your affections for Christ and His gospel?  Are you accurately displaying the worth of the gospel of Christ by the way that you interact with brothers and sisters in Christ?  Or are you displaying that something else is more valuable and has a hold on your heart?

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