When personalities collide in Christian service, it is incumbent on all parties to submit themselves to the Lord and to one another so that peace and harmony can be restored. Sometimes, however, believers must separate when unscriptural doctrine or practice prevails. The Lord is not honored when, in order to preserve a façade of unity, believers compromise and accept violations of Scripture. The call for unity at the expense of sound doctrine flies in the face of Scripture. That having been said, God is pleased when believers dwell together in harmony: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psa. 133:1). The world may achieve a pastiche that they call unity, but only the Holy Spirit, working through the submissive hearts of believers, can bring about true unity of heart and mind. David gave this invitation: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psa. 34:3).
Being unified in spirit, message, and method glorifies God. The basic human condition is one of rebellion and strife. Since Adam rebelled against God and Cain murdered his brother, the world has been replete with dissension. Paul mentions seventeen “works of the flesh” in his epistle to the Galatians. Of those, nearly half (eight) are sins associated with the selfish sins that divide: “hatred, variance [“strife”], emulations [“jealousies”], wrath, strife [“disputes”], seditions [“dissensions”], heresies [“factions”], envyings” (Gal. 5:20, 21). It is interesting that Paul pluralizes so many of them, seeming to emphasize the prevalence of such sins.
It is one thing, then, for any single believer truly to live a life that glorifies God (see: Enoch or Noah). But it is another thing altogether when two or more believers do so. For only God can produce the peace and submission that gives true unity in the hearts of otherwise rebellious sinners. In the same Galatian passage cited above, Paul mentions the ninefold “fruit of the Spirit.” As we might expect that list contains attributes that are selfless. All nine mentioned—“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance—promote harmony and contribute to a spirit of genuine unity.
That idea of “with me” and “together” that David desires is, in some ways, the essence of glorifying God. For when churches split over the choice of color for the carpet or the style of lighting in the sanctuary, we see how fallible human character is. But when two or more believers set aside their personal pet peeves, deal kindly with the foibles of others, and seek to edify one another, it may be seen that God is working. And in such a way, He is glorified.
Paul besought the Ephesian church to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (4:1), explaining that such a walk included “all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:2, 3). Clearly, this magnifying of the Lord and exaltation of His name entail more than harmonizing nicely during congregational singing. This aspect of glorifying God involves wholesale submission of the heart, mind, and will to the Lord to such a degree that we agree with John: “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (I John 3:16). God is not glorified with an offering that costs us little or nothing. But when, because He first loved us, we love Him in return to such a degree that we are wholly at His disposal, when we live to be a blessing to our brethren and to others, then God is glorified.
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