“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (Psalms 133:1 NIV)
Creating community among His creation has always been on God’s heart. Even in Eden things were not complete until there was community between Adam & Eve.
I like the way Eugene Peterson puts this point in his book, ‘A long obedience in the same direction’. He says that church “is not an option for those Christians who happen by nature to be more gregarious than others. It is part of the fabric of redemption.” (page 175).
We are designed to be people doing life together – not just meetings. Sometimes this is hard.
The ‘when’ in this verse recognises that harmony is not always present in the community of God’s people! Just think about the problems between Cain & Abel, Joseph & his brothers, Jacob & Esau, David & his brothers, Jesus & his brothers. There is a lot of sibling rivalry in scripture – because there is a lot of it in life. We leave our sins in the baptistry, but our sinful nature is still with us.
The church needs to devote serious energy to helping one another get along. Just as families are devastated by people who run away or constantly carp and complain, so churches are damaged from within – not without.
Much as we all like unity and harmony it does not ‘just happen’. It might be easier to avoid one another, but that’s not church. Church is not an institution with functions, but a family with relationships. A question we should all ask ourselves is something like this, “What am I actively doing to promote harmony, resolve disputes or heal hurts amongst my Christian family?”
Of course, harmony is not just about have a peaceful community. It is also about being there to help each other grow. The painful truth is that this often takes place through conflict. Our model is Jesus and his community of twelve disciples. He showed and taught them how to practice the greatest commandment,
“Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–40)
The writer to the Hebrews was a clear as can be that isolationism is the greatest threat to unity – not conflict. See Hebrews 3:12-14 and,
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24–25 NIV)
We are called not to intellectual agreement, but to life together – Psalm 133 v1 says we are to ‘live together’. How are you doing at staying committed to community no matter the conflicts that occur? It could be that the very dispute you fear confronting is the very thing that will unify you.