I was born in South Texas. Before I was born, my mother became friends with another lady from their church who had a son a few months before I was born. From the day I was born we have been friends. I only see him on a rare occasion any more, but when we have seen each other over the years, we have picked up where we left off and had a great time.
In fact, it’s wonderful to know that he is still my friend. When we were boys I gave him a black eye, and when we were teenagers I knocked out his front tooth while playing basketball in my driveway.
Does he believe the same things as me on certain hot-button issues? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I find peace in knowing that he is simply my friend – no matter what.
Isn’t it great to have friends like that? Do you have friends like that? Do you have friends that it doesn’t matter what they do or what they believe because you’ll be friends with them no matter what?
In our churches and in society today we are very opinionated on what is truth and what is not. We hold our guns to what we believe, and we are proud to do so. In election years we make sure everyone knows who we are voting for, and we treat those who are voting the other way like they are mere morons.
Is that friendship? Is that unity?
As Christians, I can’t find anyone who would argue against the idea that we are called to love one another. It’s one of the two greatest commands. In that, however, we are called to unity.
Jesus said that all people will know if you are a disciple of his if you love one another.
Here’s how Paul puts it in Romans 15:1-7:
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
We are not called to make sure the other person completely agrees with us before we will accept them as a friend and love them. We are called to unity first. We are called to love first. Then, as we grow in love for them we have the freedom to express our differences in the safety of that love relationship.
You may completely disagree with the social stances of your brother or sister in Christ, but you better not disown them. You may not agree with the doctrinal conclusions of a certain denomination, but you have no right on this earth to condemn them. You are called to love them, and show others your Christ-likeness by your love for them.
Sure, you can disagree. It is good to disagree. If we always agreed on everything then someone in this relationship isn’t thinking for themselves. But when we place ourselves on the seat of judgment in condemnation of another person because they disagree with us on some issue, then we take God off that seat in order to do so. My friends, that is idolatry, and the god you are worshipping is yourself.
Jesus said that if someone isn’t against Him then they are for Him (Mark 9:38-40).
The next time you feel the urge to condemn someone for their views remember what Jesus says. Remember what Paul said. Act accordingly. When we bear with one another and love them regardless – no matter what – we will find that we are much happier…and they are too.
So, lets be people of peace and unity. May we find ways to encourage one another and build one another up in the faith. And, in all things, let us love one another deeply as Christ has loved us. Remember, He didn’t die for you once you finally got your life right; He died for you while you were still a rank, heathen, sinner also known as an “enemy of God” (Romans 5:10). Let us treat one another in like manner – no matter what.
If you’d like to discuss this further, then feel free to comment on this article at http://www.mrdobbs.org or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blessings to you as you seek unity no matter what.