Character Trait No. 11
Definition: Working or dwelling in unity with others.
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is,
For brothers to dwell together in unity.” Ps. 133:1
Most great projects require teamwork. Winning sports teams like the Chicago Bulls immediately come to mind, four times the NBA champions, and thus also the world’s best basketball team. Yet even superstars like Michael Jordan cannot single handedly win national championships or Olympic gold medals. It takes teamwork – a cooperative effort towards a shared goal.
The church is consistently pictured as a body, with each part contributing its quota. (Rom. 12:3-10; I Cor. 12: I Pet. 4:10-11) Actually the church is pictured as a bunch of past losers - cripples, maimed, lepers, blind, and so on – fantastically transformed by Christ into God’s awesome championship team. (see Zeph.3:17-20) Ezekiel graphically describes this incredible metamorphosis from scattered old leg and arm bones into a resurrected army!
Examine carefully the high priestly prayer of the soon-to-be new Melchizedekian High Priest of heaven’s temple, Jesus Christ in John’s seventeenth chapter. He petitions “that they may be perfected in unity.” Unity is thus another clear “salvation issue”. This unity must be “just as we (Jesus and the Father) are one.” Not simply “like” that unity, but exactly the same. This means perfect oneness, total agreement. God’s glory is the key to possessing such a bond. Glory, in essence, is God’s character. It is “the fulness” of Christ, who is all in all, and is also in us. We, the body of Christ.. actually are.. the, (get ready for this) .......FULNESS OF CHRIST!! (Eph.1:23)
If we are the fulness of Christ, then likewise we’re the GLORY of God. Jesus said that He’d given His disciples the same glory that the Father had given Him. And this particular passage in John 17 is applicable not only to the apostles, but also “for those who believe in Me(Jesus) through their word.” All Christians! That’s us, brothers! This is shared glory, which is Christ’s character transmitted to us by His Spirit via His word, is the basis for all cooperative teamwork. Trying to cooperate as Christ’s team without His glory is trying to swim in a pool without water or flying a plane without wings. Ain’t gonna happen!
Here’s further information on Christian unity, given by Paul in Ephesians 4:
“...being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit.” This means that people who have Christ’s Spirit already possess unity. Having this Spirit means also possessing the previously mentioned glory of God. How? Because the words of Christ dwell in us. (Jn. 15:7) By beholding (as in a mirror), the glory of the Lord, Christ’s true disciples are changed into a reflection of that glory. This is of the Spirit, for the Lord (Jesus) is the Spirit. (Jn. 17:24: II Cor.3:18)
We must avoid a mechanical and lifeless unity based on agreeing on a mankmade list of essential doctrines. Who is the man or committee bold enough to draw up this list?? All Scripture is God-breathed and useful so that the man of God can be perfect. (II Tim. 3:16) One cannot pick and choose which doctrines or scriptures we want to agree upon in which to unite. We need them all in order to develop the complete understanding of our Lord, and then become like Him in His fulness, not partially. Let’s quit picking at the edges of the faith and dig in wholeheartedly and consume all of Christ by adopting His exact nature. There is a time to be “greedy”! Greedily guzzling all of God’s whole counsel, and more, more of His grace, and taking in hungrily all of His Spirit. If we partake Christ in this way, then, and only then can we united together in the same Spirit.
Those who really know Christ through the gospel become like Him. This is because of the gift of grace – the Holy Spirit in each Christian. Automatically, all Christians thus have real unity by being all sons of God and sharing and developing His perfect character. In love, Paul said we must preserve this unity of the one body and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father who is over all and in all and through all. (Eph.4:4-6)
Every attempt at evangelism, benevolence or fellowship apart from these things is fruitless manmade efforts. Actually it’s exactly like trying to build another Tower of Babel, which was built by men to man’s glory - and a colossal failure. That is also why human institutions such as the UN are a travesty. How can all the nations be united under any other “world leader” than Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords? Or in any institution other than the church, which He purchased with His blood from every nation? Who made the families and world’s peoples? (Acts 17:26) Can there be any true world unity apart from people understanding and obeying the words of Christ? Can unreconciled alien sinners hostile to God create their own surpra-national organization for a manmade version of “world peace” apart from the Prince of Peace? Of course not! Similarly, denominational unity or more correctly, union, that just supposedly ignores all of the differences and focuses on just “loving Jesus”, will always ultimately fail. Remember that Jesus said that if men loved him they would keep his commandments. One preacher said that trying to have union without having true spiritual unity in Christ’s teachings is like tying two tomcats tails together and throwing them over a clothes line!
So good character makes cooperation possible in the most perfect sense. And being cooperative is a trait of Christ’s perfect character – the character that counts. Christ’s Spirit is needed in order for us to cooperate with others. A super-terrrific, awesome attitude results from being filled with this Spirit. On the other hand, division is of the devil, and always results from having poor character.
Here are some suggestions for cooperative effort in the true unity of Christ’s Spirit:
- Take the Lord’s Supper with your fellow saints every 1st day of every week. There’s level ground at the foot of the cross for big and small alike..
- Have the same BIG picture, or goal – to seek and save the lost. No. 1 priority.
- Teach children to share at as early a stage as possible.
- Appreciate individual talents and blend them together for synergy = sum total of the individual parts are of greater power working together than each alone.
- Iron sharpens iron. Two by two, Jesus sent out the disciples. Partnership is important. Don’t reinvent the wheel!
- Develop an “esprit d’corps” or team spirit. Do team activities. (“We’re a family, a team”. Not “me, myself and I”)
- Give all the GLORY to God, and then together enjoy the victory. Watch out for the spirit of competition and vainglory. Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit.(Phil.2:3)
Let us especially learn to be cooperative people in our homes and neighborhoods, schools and local congregations so that we can learn to cooperate worldwide and fulfill the Great Commission of Christ in Matt. 28:18-20. Then we can pray: MARANATHA! “Come evacuate us out, Lord, we’ve finished our mission, - victory is ours!”