Disunity and relational strife seem to plague many churches. I hear of fighting and grumbling over a plethora of issues ranging from music style to Bible translations to dress to room usage.
Disunity in a local church hurts the mission of Christ as it does not show the result of our salvation – that believers are one. It hurts people in the body as many fail to experience the encouragement and joy of community that is rooted in the grace of God.
The writer of Hebrews challenges us in Hebrews 13:1 to “Let brotherly love continue.” The phrase brotherly love is one word in the original language: philadelphia, so the statement is very succint and powerful: Let philadelphia continue.
Philadelphia is composed of two root words. Phileo which means brotherly love and adelphos which means of the same womb. So philadelphia is a deep brotherly love for someone who has been born from the same womb as you. Love among believers reflects the reality that we have been born from the same womb. Not from the same mother, but from the same God. We have been born again, made new by our personal relationship with Christ. We have the same Father, the same Spirit that lives within us, and the same Savior. We share the same hope, are apart of the same body, and have been reconciled to God through the same gospel.
There is a lot that can divide people in a local church. People come from a variety of backgrounds and hold a plethora of preferences. What makes a local body beautiful is not that everyone has the same race, education, political view, or preference, but that there is unity in the midst of the diversity. There is unity because the common bond of Christ is stronger than all the differences. Unity in the gospel is so much deeper than mere surface uniformity. I love D.A. Carson’s words on this:
“The church is… made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together… because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ… They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.”
When the world watches believers love one another for Jesus’ sake, they take notice. As Jesus declared, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, by the love that you have for one another.”