I have previously written about what seems impossible: the unity of Christ’s church. In the New Testament, there was discord in the early church. The ensuing centuries have multiplied fractures in the church. God and his Son must be heartbroken.
Paul’s epistles are often the source of church division. I don’t mean that he intentionally wrote them to cause division, but his letters are often picked apart by Christians, usually in a well-meaning attempt to interpret what he wrote. And he wrote so much, there is plenty of fodder for those who think they know exactly what he said or meant to say.
Interestingly, in Philippians, Paul offers advice about unity to one of the churches he helped establish. It’s still some of the best advice that can be found on this subject.
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault…Then you will shine…like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” (2:14-16) Later, he pleaded with two church members who were apparently disputing “to be of the same mind in the Lord.” He knew these people. They were his friends and had “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel…” (4:2-3) For goodness sake, he seemed to say, don’t do this to the church.
In his final exhortations, he created a formula for church unity: “Rejoice in the Lord always…And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” (4:4-8)
Such things form the foundation for unity.