“All through the New Testament,” William Barclay writes, “there rings a plea for Christian unity.” Yes! Jesus himself asked, in his John 17 prayer to the Father, “May they [his disciples] be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me . . .” Evidently Jesus believes that one of the strongest proofs to an unbelieving world that he is indeed God’s Son incarnate is that love for him unites folks who would not normally be united.
Notice that the plea is not for us to somehow create unity between the followers of Jesus Christ; the plea is for us to recognize the unity that already exists through his Spirit.
No one knows what was causing friction between two ladies in Philippi named Euodia and Syntyche, but the Apostle Paul entreats them, “Make up your differences as Christians should.”
Probably both gals were fine Christian women, but their sad claim to fame is that they fussed loudly and longly enough that their quarrel threatened the health of the church they both professed to love. Why did they fuss? What was the issue? Nobody knows. Nobody cares. Which is probably the largest lesson of the tale.
But fuss they did. Over the color of the carpet? Over Sunday School material? (I’m kidding, but I’ll betcha the fuss was in that class of mountainous molehills. By the way, don’t we realize that it’s not good for followers of a crucified Lord to always get our own way?)
Did their quarrel erase the fact that they were both sisters in the Lord? No! The apostle doesn’t write, “Become sisters in Christ!” They already were—even when the fur was flying! What he’s saying is: “Grow up! Act like what you already are—sisters in the Lord.”
I would be a fool if I thought I needed to create brotherhood between my younger brother and myself. He is my brother. Most of the time, I’m even proud to claim him. (Then there was the time he blew the top off the neighbor’s new fencepost . . .) But whether I claim him or not makes absolutely no difference as far as our physical brotherhood goes. We are brothers because we have the same parents. We cannot create brotherhood. But we can recognize and cherish it, and that’s scads more important than one of us “winning” in some fuss.
Sometimes God’s children disagree. Big surprise? Sometimes they quarrel tooth and nail and engage in power plays. Occasionally, they even fuss over something important. Just like, well, just like children.
We Christians should be more interested in lifting Christ up and less interested in winning “holy” wars. Our divisions, whether in the larger Body or within local churches, are a slap in the Father’s face.
But even when we seem the most divided, our job is not to create unity but to recognize the unity that is already there binding believers together simply because we are children of the same Father, bought by the blood of the same Son, and given life by the same Spirit.