For a variety of reasons I have been pondering the substance of Christian unity. Everybody likes the concept. Most of us know it when we see it. But, what produces it?
In a conversation with my friend Steve this week he said we need to learn how to get along and love each other, but we don’t have to like each other, let alone agree on everything. So true. But does that compromise anything urged by the Bible?
Twice in the New Testament the Apostles Paul and Peter urge their readers to be “like-minded”:
“..make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”….”Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” (Philippians 2:2; 1 Peter 3:8 NIV11)
Like-minded in what way? About what? In both of those passages, in context, the emphasis is on relationships.
Apollos was a godly man as was the apostle Paul, but they found it hard to agree:
“Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.” (1 Corinthians 16:12 NIV11)
There is no suggestion in the New Testament that they did not respect each other, nor love each other in Christ. Agreement on opinion areas is not essential for the progress of the gospel.
Another friend suggested to my wife that I should put together a United Kingdom and Ireland unity Christmas Carol. I was somewhat overwhelmed by the thought, although agreed that it might be a good idea. Fortunately, my good friend Roy Carter (musical genius that is) came up with a good plan. We are working on it now and hope to have the carol ready in time for the 13th of December, and if not, at least the 20th. Then anyone can use it in the carol services as they wish.
In the last couple of days I’ve sent out instructions and resources to around 20 musicians. I’m looking forward to receiving the recordings of the carol, “O come, all ye faithful”. I hope we musicians like each other, I like to think we like each other, but the more important factor is that we all love each other and love God. We all believe in the sentiments of the carol, we all believe in doing something which glorifies God and encourages the churches.
Truthfully, I have no idea how much agreement we will have on nuances of doctrine or disputable matters. But what I do know is this does not matter as much as doing something to the glory of God.
Let me ask a question. Is this someone you find hard to like? It doesn’t mean you cannot be like-minded with them in Christ. Your responsibility and mine is to love everyone God loves. We don’t have to agree, we do not have to, and should not, attempt to make everybody agree on everything. But we must work hard, fight the spiritual fights, and purify our hearts such that we love each other deeply from the heart.
God bless, Malcolm
Update: Penny and I have been asked to teach at the conference. More details coming soon. However, the focus will centre on the connection between theology, ecology and God’s vision for this earth.
Take a look at the flyer for a teaching conference coming up in March 2021. I registered this week. I heartily recommend anyone with an interest in these matters to do so. Register here: https://www.teleiossociety.com
The week ahead
If you’d like to pray for me I’d be very grateful. Here are some of my plans that you could include.
- A new Tuesday teaching tip class – “How to connect with your audience – part 3”.
- The next “What we are reading episode” – Interview with author Tyrone Marcus
- The eleventh quiet time coaching episode from the series based on Pete Greig’s book, “How to pray”. We will be looking at spiritual warfare.
- Working on a teaching series for January and February 2021 on the character of Abraham and those connected with him in the Scriptures.
- Developing the Christmas services for the Watford and Thames Valley congregations.
Until the next time,
God bless, Malcolm