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Known by Our Love
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By David B. Smith

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iBelieve: Love is the Defining Mark | PDF Version | Study Guide: Unity in the Body of Christ

Back in the 1950s, Vice President Richard Nixon had a famous “Kitchen Debate” with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, where they went round and round on the comparative virtues of communism vs. capitalism. I’m embarrassed to admit that I once participated in a much less productive form of verbal combat that I refer to as the “Jacuzzi Debates.”

My next-door neighbor, Wayne, was a delightful friend . . . but a Christian of a different denomination. I liked him for many reasons, not the least of which was the scenic Jacuzzi in his backyard. But for some reason, every time the two of us plopped into that chlorinated hot water, we began arguing over the same doctrine: what happens when you die. He had his chosen verses, I had mine — and unfortunately, we kept rehashing the same unchanging arguments. We didn’t have Bibles close by — and didn’t want to splash water on the pages — so the study never escalated or bore fruit.

I finally said: “Wayne, man, this makes no sense! Here you and I agree on probably 98% of all Bible teachings; we both consider Jesus the Redeemer of the world. We’ve embraced Calvary. We place our faith in Scripture. We can’t wait for Christ to come and take us home. So why are we always spinning our wheels on this single unresolvable issue?”

Unity is a wonderful but elusive and slippery thing! Jesus Himself describes it as all-important, one of the testifying hallmarks of the Christian Church. In John 17, just before He sacrifices His life for the Church, He pleads with the Father: I pray . . . that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You (v. 21). He goes so far as to tell His disciples that unity and love between members will be the hallmark of legitimate discipleship. When people of different races, economic classes, political parties, and age categories can come together in unity, it is an impressive display to onlookers. Lucifer is impotent in the face of a unified Church! Conversely, when Christians squabble and make little or no effort to resolve differences, the Body of Christ is badly injured and hampered in its global mission.

The source of unity, of course, is Jesus. Every Christian is saved by Christ and called to serve Christ. The cross of Jesus is a huge pillar in our lives; all other matters, even if important, need to shrink to their proper proportion and perspective in contrast. It’s unfortunate that we too often focus our eager energies and passions on divisive and trivial matters — in Jacuzzis or elsewhere — and take our eyes off the magnitude of Jesus’ love for us.

The Bible has a metaphor where Jesus is the Vine; we are the branches. I may be a shorter branch than you; undoubtedly, we have unique shapes and varying foliage. But if I am connected to the Vine, and so are you, we will invariably be not just close to one another, but similar in desires and attitudes. We need to make sure the Vine is “growing” in our souls, becoming more and more our single motivation and highest priority. A second metaphor helps too: an orchestra may sound slightly discordant as every musician tunes up. But the moment the Conductor raises his baton, each person follows him and the resulting music is stirring and unifying.

God’s Word offers two beacons of great news. First, Bible truth as defined in the life of Jesus is a supreme source of unity . . . and in the last days, this will be a noted reality! A pure form of truth and obedient loyalty is even now beginning to sweep over the world and the Bride of Christ; this will lead us toward unity. Second, the Holy Spirit is a promised Agent of solidifying us in Christ-centered truth and holding us fast as a unified force. Paul invites us: Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).

What if there really is a schism, an important plank of the faith, which is dividing us from one another? What if someone’s teachings are sowing division? The late John Stott made this helpful suggestion: Fight the occasional false teacher with a tidal wave of good Bible teachers! Overwhelm divisions with love and humble doctrinal confidence. Trust in God to protect His Church. Finally, in the word of Puritan minister Richard Baxter: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.
    
We will walk with each other; we will walk hand in hand. And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love. --Peter Scholtes
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David B. Smith writes from California. (14 of 28)  His web page is davidsmithbooks.com. Biblebay Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information.