This past Sunday, we got together as one church for the first Sunday of Advent and our bilingual service with baptisms. It is impossible to think about the service and not think about Psalm 133…
Behold, how good and pleasant it isPsalm 133 (ESV)
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
Sunday was a beautiful picture of this text. It was “good” and “pleasant,” “precious,” a “blessing,” and “life-giving.” But at the same time, like most things on this side of eternity, applying “dwelling in unity” in a context with so much diversity (ethnic, generational, cultural, among others) is messy. Diversity is why we must ask, in light of biblical truth,
- What are the challenges of dwelling in unity that we find on this side of eternity?
- How important is it to see “dwelling in unity” in relation to Advent?
To understand the challenges of dwelling in unity, we have to start by discussing who the author is. Like 99% of Christian questions, the answer is; God is the author of true unity (Read Genesis… yes, the whole book!, Ezekiel 37, Ephesians 2, Colossians 1). Therefore if God designed it, prayed for it (John 17), started it (book of Acts), and has accomplished it (read the beautiful picture of Revelation), then we should desire it and be intentional about applying unity by the power of the Spirit. The problem is that, by default, God’s plan for unity will have immediate opposition from Satan. Because our enemy, the father of lies, will go against anything created and commanded by God (Read Romans 16:17-20). He will try (and sometimes succeed) to use the weakness of the flesh to cause division and bring sin into His people. The devil introduces the idea that diversity equates to division when the truth is that diversity was in God’s plans from the beginning.
The opposition to unity is very subtle (small foxes), and it is here where the real challenges of “dwelling in unity” are. It comes from within. Our opinions about classes, services, and ministries often lead us to grumble, gossip, and, in many cases, divide. Having an opinion about something is important. Liking a particular style is good. But it is disastrous when we stop listening and desiring God’s word and start looking around for non-primary things that distract us (Hebrews 2:1) from our target (Hebrews 12:1-2). Ephesians 4 tells us, “I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift“.
As His people, we should pray, desire, and apply unity, not giving a place to the flesh to express like 1 Peter 4:7-10 tells us, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace“.
After all of this, what does Advent has to do with it? The complexity of “dwelling in unity.” The frustration and pain of having imperfect people gather together should bring us to our knees. We can’t fabricate unity. It is not our idea, and we can’t do it. It is only through Jesus that we can have unity.
In His first Advent, our Savior defeated division and showed us the love necessary to achieve unity today. Jesus coming was necessary so we could be sealed with the Holy Spirit, the one that works in and through us, and we can enjoy unity on this side of eternity.
And lastly, “dwelling in unity” should bring us to long for Jesus’ Second Advent. When you miss the rhythms, traditions, places, and styles of whatever place you call home, take a moment and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Because it will be only then that we will finally enjoy perfect communion with God and one another.