Jesus and Unity
There are many divergent views concerning unity. Denominational attitudes and teachings relative to unity have worsened. Not a few brethren also have been in a state of transition regarding this static subject. We understand that Jesus' teaching is comprised of all the New Testament writers taught concerning unity (or any other subject). Paul wrote thus in the climate of some of the Corinthians questioning and challenging his authority: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Cor. 14: 37). What did Jesus himself directly teach regarding unity or sameness?
Jesus taught the possibility of unity. Jesus prayed for oneness to characterize his disciples. Hear him: "That they all may be one " (Jn. 17: 21). It is axiomatic that Jesus would not have in this fashion prayed for something that was unattainable. Notice also Jesus' prayer is in the shadow of the cross. In the imminence of death, Jesus' mind appears to be full of the matters most pressing and urgent. The unity of his followers was of great concern. Jesus illustrated the undesirability of disunity when he said, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand" (Matt. 12: 25). Oneness of mind is enjoined and required (I Cor. 1: 10). God does not require the impossible and then condemn when the impossible is not attained (I Cor. 1-3).
Things in Jesus' life and teaching which prevented unity. The avarice and greed of certain ones as they abused the "temple" prevented sameness between them and Jesus (Matt. 21: 12, 13). Appreciate the fact that Jesus did not simply look the other way. He addressed the money exchangers and what they were doing in no uncertain terms.
Many of Jesus' brethren transgressed and perverted the commandments of God (Matt. 15: 1-9). Jesus did not create some rationale to justify them and himself in jointly and amicably violating God's laws (as many are doing today by abusing Romans 14). He also did not simply ignore their false teachings. Jesus established the true teaching (vs. 4, Ex. 20: 12). He then contrasted what they taught, "But ye say " (vss. 5, 6). Jesus made application: "Ye hypocrites " (vss. 7-9). There was no unity between Jesus and these people - their false doctrine prevented such oneness (see 2 Jn. 9-11).
A failure to perform God's requirements also stood in the way of unity. Jesus said of certain Pharisees who accurately taught God's laws, " but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not" (Matt. 23: 3, see I Jn. 1: 3-7).
The concept and meaning of oneness as directly taught by Jesus. Jesus was the master in the art of illustration. Jesus did not use illustrations to entertain but to exemplify and qualify his teaching. In the aforementioned setting (Jn. 17), Jesus again prays for the unity of his followers, " that they may be one " (vs. 11). He then states and illustrates, "as we are" (he and the Father). Notice verse twenty-one, "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee ." Unity, as taught by Jesus, was not unity in diversity or agreeing to disagree! Moreover, Jesus' teaching and concept regarding unity was not ecumenical or hypocritical, it was based on mutual beliefs, goals, values, and activity. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee ." After a similar fashion, God asked the question, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3: 3.)
Beloved, religious unity is attainable, but only on the basis of mutually agreeing - this is what Jesus taught.
The means of sameness. Everyone when left to their own resources tends to be different. Without a uniform and universal standard, norm, and criterion, man can never be one, as the Father and Jesus were one. Beloved, we say Jesus would not have prayed for unity if such were impossible. I submit Jesus would not have thus prayed and taught regarding unity if there were no means of accomplishing unity.
Jesus' prayer in which he so completely besought the Father for the sameness of his disciples is replete with references to the "word." They had "kept thy word," "given unto them the words," and "sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth" (vss. 6, 8 17). Jesus expanded those for whom he prayed by mentioning those who "shall believe on me through their (disciples, dm) word" (vs. 20). In the positive sense, the word creates unity; in the negative, it causes those who do not love the truth to hate those who do (division, vs. 14). Our acceptance of those who teach or our rejection is based on their teaching the truth or failing to bring the doctrine of Christ (2 Jn. 9-11). Furthermore, Jesus taught we must worship God in truth and that the truth frees (Jn. 4: 24, 8: 32). Keep in mind, Jesus equates "word" and "truth" (Jn. 17: 17).
Intelligent reader, those who want unity are those who diligently study the scriptures to learn the truth (the word, means of unity) and live it in their daily lives (Eph. 4: 3-6). They also influence and encourage others to do the same (Jude 3). When two or more "walk in the light," they are automatically united. We do not need unity meetings in which we are urged to minimize our differences and maximize our similarities. We need preachers who forcefully and uncompromisingly present the applicable word of God. Men who will expose error and urge all to obey the truth, these are needed. These same men will point out the lack of unity between those who do the will of God and those who do their own will. It is not these preachers and brethren who are dividing, but the stubborn, self-willed people who rebel against God by refusing his means of unifying men.
We have irrefutably seen what Jesus directly taught regarding unity. Now we need to practice it (related material would be, "Achan, a Study of Mutual Responsibility".