The “scandal” of unity
If you have been following me for any amount of time, you know that we’ve gone through a great trial here in Israel. No, I’m not speaking about Hamas, nor am I speaking about the persecution that we experienced when we birthed Shelanu TV. I’m speaking about an attack from within.
About five years ago, some brothers brought some concerns about our doctrine within Tikkun (network of leaders with whom I serve). This led to accusations of dishonesty, that we preach two different messages, one in Hebrew and one in English (never entered our minds)—and even suggestions that we might be heretics.
The “scandalous” story of Euodia and Syntyche
So, what does the Bible say about unity?
Let me share with you a passage that doesn’t get much fanfare. I think you’re going to find its deeper meaning quite powerful.
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Phil. 4:2-3)
He makes a very passionate plea for unity in 2:1-2
He defines humility in 2:3 as “value others above yourselves.”
He tells them in 2:4 to not only look to their own interests but help others achieve their goals.
In 2:5-11, the heart of the book, he tells them to be like Jesus. In other words, “WWJD” means being willing to go to the cross and die for the sake of other people when you deserve the exact opposite.
He then uses both Timothy and Epaphroditus as examples of faithful servants—in other words, people they should emulate.
In chapter 3, he makes it clear that status and pedigree mean nothing. Only knowing Messiah has any value. In other words, “what is all of your bickering achieving?”
He shares how anything that gets in the way of fulfilling the call of God is a waste of time in 3:12-14.
That he names them at all is evidence of friendship since one of the marks of enmity in polemical letters is that enemies are left unnamed, thus denigrated by anonymity.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Cor. 1:10)
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)
This is why Paul is so concerned for the church (in Corinth): God is living in this community through his Spirit. It can be corrupted or harmed by strife, division, and boasting over human leaders.
Yeshua Prayed for Unity
Three times he prays that we would be one even as he and the Father are one. It should be no surprise that he also speaks of the importance of truth. (John 17:17)
The idea that we would pit truth against unity is a dangerous one. Even a new believer could easily understand the importance of truth in the New Testament body. But as you grow and mature in your understanding of the New Testament, you cannot avoid the constant theme throughout the New Testament: a call to unity.
To treat unity as the ugly stepchild of the always attractive truth is to miss the mark. When I studied how to interpret the Bible, we were taught the meaning of sin. In Greek, it means to miss the mark. My professor applied this term, sin, to Bible interpretation. We tend to think of sin in terms of morality. As a lover of the word of God, she saw sin as not rightly handling the word of God, thus missing the mark through sloppy exegesis.
Oh, that we would one day fulfill Yeshua’s prayer of walking in unity and being one with the Father and with the Son.
This article originally appeared on roncantor.com, May 25, 2021, and reposted with permission.