Good & Pleasant Unity
Psalm 133:1 (ESV) -- Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Christians frequently appeal to “unity” as a conflict resolver. This is not wrong to do. We are called to pursue unity and live in unity with one another. Scripture confirms this over and over again. God desires His people to be one.
Our passage from the psalms reminds us of this. Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” It is both good and pleasant when Christians dwell in unity together. How so? It brings peace and joy in the community we share. It honors the Lord as we live under His authority and rule at peace with one another. Unity is a constant aim for true Christians.
However, the appeal for unity cannot often be mistaken for neglecting significant differences. We cannot have unity with darkness. Unity cannot ignore doctrinal error. There is a need to understand the root of unity—truth.
All unity hinges on being unified to something. Christians find our unity in the gospel. We are unified by the truths of Scripture. This is where the “theological triage” discussed by many theologians and leaders is helpful. There is a ranking system of doctrines that are needed to be agreed upon in order to have unity. Other doctrines don’t require as much agreement in order to have unity together.
Tier 1 issues include the core doctrines of the Christian faith: the Trinity, Scripture as God’s Word, full deity and full humanity of Christ, death and resurrection of Jesus, forgiveness in Christ alone, etc. These must be affirmed for unity. Tier 2 issues include differences in baptism, gifts of the Spirit, role of women in ministry, etc. We can disagree with folks on these issues, and may attend different churches/denominations, but we can affirm them as Christians. Tier 3 issues are things that we can differ on and attend church together: worship style, discipleship strategies, missions philosophy, beliefs on end times, etc. Unity is grounded on truth. We are unified by truth and commitment to it. Conflict arises over differences over truth. We must learn to discern where unity can happen, and where conflict must exist.
Reflection & Journal:
- What is unity?
- Why is it important to recognize that the root of unity is truth?
- How does unity shift based on our theological differences?
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