One of the greatest dangers that many Christian homes and churches are facing is disunity. This peril often ensues from indifference to the truths and counsels of God’s Word. Some of us confess sound doctrines, but do not appreciate and apply them in our personal and communal living. Such an attitude engenders spiritual apathy and self-promoting, materialistic, carnal lifestyles. In such an environment, the unity and co-existence of the family and church are disrupted and endangered.
Disharmony, conflict and division often stem from unbiblical living of even those who belong to churches with sound doctrines. Hesitation to align our thoughts and actions in submission to the counsels of God’s Word will disrupt, weaken and destroy Christian communities. Discord becomes a common problem in such an environment of disregard for God’s Word in pursuit of personal pleasure and pride.
When the apostle Paul concluded his last letter to the Corinthians, he expressed his fear of sins that destroy unity: “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults” (2 Cor. 12:20). These would not just end with only some discord, but will undermine the purity, testimony and existence of the family and the church. Paul feared such a situation in Corinth; that’s why he forewarned: “And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed” (2 Cor. 12:21).
The Philippian church also faced the danger of discord and division because of the personal conflict between Euodias and Syntyche. So, Paul cautioned the two women, “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2).
Such a situation existed in many of the early churches, including in Rome. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Rom. 12:16; cf. 15:5-7). Conflict and dissent are likely to plague every family and church whose members fail to yield fully to the doctrines / principles of God’s Word, and to commit to biblical living.
Let us consider Paul’s words in Romans 12:16 that call the church to spiritual unity. The church in Rome was made up of people from diverse backgrounds of race, language, culture, etc. Maintaining unity in a church with such diversity requires much commitment to the sound principles given to them by the apostles.
At the beginning of Romans 12:16, Paul wrote, “Be of the same mind one toward another.” The original Greek words used by the apostle can also be translated as “thinking the same thing to one another”. It is not an exhortation to think about the same thing, but a call to think of everybody in the same way. We must treat everyone equally. In the church, we are not to show favouritism or prefer one group over another.
The church should not be divided along racial or cultural or economic or educational lines. The church must be united, irrespective of the differences in members’ backgrounds. The church is a place where people of diverse backgrounds ought to come together as God’s people united in truth and love. Every member of the church must sincerely endeavour to communicate with other members of the church with respect and love.
Paul exhorted the Philippian church, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). Paul also instructed them, “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).
Major causes of disunity and conflict within a church (though she may be united in doctrine and purpose) can be traced to sin, pride, self-centredness, selfishness, anger, bitterness, jealousy, competitive spirit, power play, unforgiveness, vengeance, etc. We must guard our hearts against all these destructive feelings and conduct, lest we become vehicles of schism within the church.
Internal discord is shattering the church. Every church member must have a commitment to peace and unity within the church. Each of us must strive to be a peacemaker. We must pray that we will not be a troublemaker. A sincere commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation must characterise every Christian. The apostle Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:11, “Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.” We must not let unhappiness and hurt caused by others grow into bitterness and vengeful behaviour. We must pursue the path of love, forgiveness and reconciliation. Likewise, we must cease being jealous of and hostile to those whom God has been using increasingly. Let us pray that God will make us promoters of godly unity in the church.
Paul also exhorted in Romans 12:16, “Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” Having commanded Christians to “Be of the same mind one toward another”, the apostle Paul then further advised them on how to maintain such a harmonious co-existence with fellow Christians. According to this apostolic advice, the Christian unity within the church is largely dependent on how each would think of himself in relation to others.
Hence Christians are told: “Mind not high things”. In other words, no Christian should be thinking of high things for himself. Seeking or aspiring for honour, rank, wealth, the company of wealthy men, etc. would lead to self-aggrandizement at the expense of others. Being too ambitious prevents one from accepting humble positions and tasks for the glory of God and for the betterment of others. Being high-minded or snobbish prevents one from stooping down to serve ordinary people or those who are of low degree. Thinking too highly of oneself can lead one to despise others and even to engage in “smear campaigns” to damage others’ reputations.
Every Christian ought to be humble and not try to grasp things which are out of his reach, or too high for him, or beyond his capacity. In order to serve everyone equally, he has to get off his “high horse” and get low to attend to their needs. We are also advised to “condescend to men of low estate”. We must not disdain to take notice of, or to greet, or to commune with men of lowly (temporal or spiritual) condition. We must make special efforts to humbly mingle with the lowly.
Moreover, we are also warned to “Be not wise in your own conceits”. No one should conduct himself as though he has all the wisdom while others have none. It is ungodly to think of oneself as socially and intellectually superior to others. Such a one is not so in the eyes of God and others. Self-conceit is often attended with bad consequences. It spoils a man’s usefulness and hinders his improvement in knowledge. It induces him to reject wise counsels given to him and to treat fellow Christians contemptuously, eventually bringing shame and pain upon himself! Proverbs 3:7 warns us, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” Likewise, Isaiah 5:21 cautions, “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” So, let us avoid being wise in our own minds.