This article is an excerpt from the devotional, United: Reflections on Partnership in the Bible. Download your copy as our Christmas gift to you.
‘Where do you get off bickering among yourselves? You’re supposed to be followers of Jesus. Now I’m hearing that you’ve divided yourselves into little groups according to human leadership. Stop it and get on with following Jesus.’ (1 Corinthians 1:10-17, my paraphrase.)
Paul had good reason to be exasperated. After preaching the gospel and helping new Christians gather as a church at Corinth, Paul moved on to share the good news of Jesus with other cities in Asia Minor. He was confident the Corinthians were on the right track—they understood grace, they lacked no spiritual gift and Paul had set them up to know that God called them into fellowship together with his son, Jesus.
He left them united, but word has come back to Paul that there were now big problems among the Corinthians—first and foremost in his concerns: they’re throwing away fellowship and unity. So, in Ephesus, Paul sits down to write a letter and set them straight.
Unity matters to God. It always has.
‘The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ (Genesis 2:18)
God gave Adam and Eve a mission to populate the Earth with people made in his image—an important, noble task, and something they could only do in partnership. God’s desire for us to work in unity continued throughout the stories in the Old Testament—as Abraham’s descendants become the nation of Israel, and God sends prophets to remind people to turn back to him and stay distinctly united as his people.
As David sings:
‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is 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!’ (Psalm 133:1-2)
When Jesus arrived, he further reinforced his father’s love of unity, imploring us to love one another to such an extent that it should become something for which Christians are known (John 13:35).
Is it something Christians are known for? Sure, we’re big fans of unity when we are with other ‘likeminded’ saints, but what about when we encounter Christians with whom we disagree? Are we, like the Corinthians, inclined to form factions rather than seek unity despite our differences?
At Baptist World Aid we work with a vast variety of Christian humanitarian organisations with a shared vision of a better world for all. We are different to our Partners, but our differences aren’t more important than our love of Jesus and mutual desire to walk in his ways. These partnerships have inspired a new devotional from our team.
UNITED: Reflections on Partnership in the Bible is a collection of seven bite-sized studies that celebrate God’s people working together for his purposes. Written by seven different members of the Baptist World Aid team, we hope it offers a challenge to value unity in the same way God does. Here’s a sneak peek:
In the broad church that is God’s Kingdom, we encounter all kinds of modern-day disciples with a wide range of backgrounds, politics, and views. It can feel overwhelming. And the temptation is to withdraw to a corner of the Kingdom populated by those who think and feel like us. But Jesus would call us to draw nearer still, and partner with those who might differ from us on so much but with whom we share a devotion to Christ and his kingdom come here on earth.
Unity is important, but it’s not always easy. Do you struggle to love Christians who differ to you on things like culture, politics, or theology? Good. Keep struggling. The problems arise when we stop struggling and start dividing, or mocking, or looking down upon our brothers and sisters. As we struggle, perhaps we can grow to love unity as our heavenly Father does.
Why not download our free devotional, and take 15 minutes each morning for a week to sit with God in this space?