May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:5-6 ESV
Why can’t we all just get along? Disunity and disagreement plagues the church today. The body of Christ is marred by a lack of harmony and portrays to the world a less-than-flattering image of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. And yet, our unity was of paramount importance to Paul. It was even a high priority for Jesus, because it was the primary focus of His prayer in the garden on the night He was betrayed. He pleaded with the Father, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21 ESV). It was to be the supernatural unity of the followers of Jesus that would give living proof of His claim to be the Savior of the world. Our Spirit-empowered ability to get along would give evidence to a lost world that Jesus’ death was far more than just martyrdom. He died so that we might have new life. He gave His life so that we might receive a new capacity to love one another – in spite of all our differences and diversities. The early church was made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life. There were Jews, Gentiles, pagans, the poor, the wealthy, slaves, masters, the educated and uneducated, dignitaries, tax collectors, former prostitutes, commoners and distinguished civic leaders. And the very fact that they could all come together and exist in harmony and unity was the work of God. But Paul knew that this unity would be under constant attack by the enemy. Satan’s strategy will always be to destroy the body of Christ from within. He will do everything in his power to create disunity and sow discord among the people of God. He will encourage selfishness and self-centeredness. He will subtly promote a what’s-in-it-for-me mentality that always proves to be divisive and destructive.
But Luke describes what the early days of the church were like. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 ESV). There was a supernatural sense of unity. They were drawn together for a common cause and shared a common faith in Jesus Christ. Each had come as a sinner, unable to redeem himself, but had received forgiveness from God as a result of their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. No one, despite the severity of their sin or the dignity of their social position, was any different than anyone else. They were all sinners saved by grace. And years later, Paul prayed that the believers in Rome would have that same sense of unity and harmony among themselves. But he knew that God would have to provide it. God would have to grant them the ability to live in unity. Their natural tendency would be toward selfishness. But God is glorified best when we are unified most. When we “with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Our prayer should be for unity. We should desire to live in harmony with one another – God-ordained, Spirit-empowered harmony. Jesus commanded us to love one another, in the same way that He loved us – sacrificially and selflessly. Paul tells us, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NLT). Later in his letter to the Romans, he wrote, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10 NLT). Peter gave a similar word of encouragement. “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude” (1 Peter 3:8 NLT). Our unity is paramount to our testimony. Getting along is essential if we want to get the attention of the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. Because what good is our testimony of Christ’s life-transforming power if we can’t even get along with those who we call our brothers and sisters in Christ. So unity should be our constant prayer. It is God who has made us one through faith in His Son. It is God who must keep us one as we struggle to live godly lives in the midst of a godless generation. We must make unity among the people of God one of our highest priorities and a constant part of our daily prayers.