In my previous post, I concluded that “Disagreement is not Disunity.” Primarily, I stepped through Romans 14-15 to show that Paul expected disagreements among the church, but he also expected them to maintain unity in spite of those disagreements.
In that passage, Paul exhorts his readers to maintain unity 1) by each person being convinced in their own conscience, 2) by not passing judgment on others because of the disagreements, 3) by never causing a brother or sister to stumble against their own conscience, and 4) by seeking to please others and not yourself. (Note that this last one is also written in the context of dealing with disagreements.)
Finally, and most importantly, Paul said that his readers must continually make sure that their focus is on God. As Paul says, God is the source of both endurance and encouragement (Romans 15:5) â€“ both of which they will need to live in unity with those with whom they disagree. But, notice that it is this endurance and encouragement from God that leads to living in harmony with one another and in harmony with Jesus Christ. Harmony (unity) with one another and with Jesus Christ does not come through agreement, but through reliance on God and the endurance and encouragement that he provides.
But, if we are honest with ourselves and with one another, we have to admit that disagreements often do lead to disunity. Why is this? Well, from the passage above, disunity occurs because we are not focusing on God and because we are not reacting to one another correctly.
What do Christians focus on instead of God? Many, many things. The most obvious one is doctrinal statements. Our doctrinal statements about God are not God himself. Paul does not say to accept someone if that person understands God in the same way that you do. Instead, Paul says that if God accepts someone, then we are to accept someone. (Romans 15:7)
Along with our doctrinal statements, churches also tend to focus on their own organizational memberships. Again, whether or not someone shares membership in a certain church organization is not related to whether or not God has accepted someone in Jesus Christ, which, as I said before, is the only requirement for us to accept someone as a brother or sister in Christ. For some, organizational membership is also related to denomination. When we focus on a person’s denomination instead of their relationship with God in Christ, our disagreements lead to disunity.
Focusing on personal giftedness, service opportunities, or passions/concerns can also cause our disagreements to lead to disunity. All of us are gifted differently. All have different opportunities to serve and different passions and concerns. Paul continually warned his readers to consider others as more important than themselves, but in these areas, Christians often think their own giftedness, opportunities, or passions are more important. (This is often a problem with leaders who set a “vision” or “mission” for people who do not share their giftedness, opportunities, or passions.) When we focus on these differences, instead of focusing on God who gifts us differently and gives us different opportunities or passions, we tend to separate from one another.
So, disagreements can lead to disunity when we are not focused on God together. Even focusing on good things can lead to disunity. Good things are not God. We must learn to accept one another because God has accepted us in Jesus Christ. There is no other reason. Any other reason will lead to disunity.