Just below a ground-floor window in the Ministry of Justice in Paris, France is a marble shelf engraved with a horizontal line and the word ‘MÈTRE’. It might not seem monumental, but it’s one of the last remaining standard meter bars after they were placed all over the country 200 years ago in an attempt to introduce a new and universal system of measurement.
French leaders seeking unity amid the turmoil of the French Revolution tried to create unity by enforcing uniformity, but one doesn’t always equal the other.
That’s true in the Christian life too.
Uniformity is almost impossible to come by, but Christians can experience unity in the body of Christ if they are willing to work for it. Unity among Christians is more than a buzzword; it is a command given to us in Scripture.
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul tells believers to work to maintain unity among themselves. But that seems harder and harder to do these days, sadly even among Christians. The diversity of our churches and our denominations means we will never have uniformity. But we can’t escape the command Paul gives us: “Keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3, CSB).
Worth the effort
This doesn’t mean we should ignore real differences in doctrine among fellow Christians. However, it does mean we should work hard to stay in unity with others and not look for every chance to disagree.
Here are three ways we can model this unity in our churches and across bodies of believers.
1. Be certain of the essentials
This should go without saying, but it is also one of the hardest things to do. Much of the division we face centers around the difference between first and second-tier doctrines.
Christians who work together are able to do more than they could ever do apart, but it is not without challenges. We must be certain of what we believe and what doctrines are essential.
History shows we can hold onto each other in cooperation even as we hold tightly to the inerrant Word of God revealed in the Bible. This means to keep unity, we must study God’s Word and be certain of what it says and what it means.
Beyond that, we must be able to lay down our traditions and methods without letting go of God’s inerrant Word.
2. Model Christ’s love for others
Many people are more than willing to hold onto the essentials and proclaim them loudly. But we must do so in a manner that reflects the heart of Christ. Holding onto the essentials and treating others with kindness and respect are not mutually exclusive.
Far too often, Christians are willing to show love to the lost but not to Christians who believe differently than they do. Modeling Christ’s love for others can be as simple as giving someone the benefit of the doubt instead of jumping to the worst conclusion about what they say.
Learning how to work with others is something we first learned in elementary school and should be something Christians never grow out of.
There are times it’s harder to do than others, and our current culture makes division easier than ever. We must learn to not only fight for the essentials of the faith but to fight for the spread of the gospel to those who need it most. The task of sharing the gospel is too important to be sidelined by petty disagreements and infighting among believers.
3. Work to find common ground under the cross
The biblical call to unity within the body of Christ is not just for people who believe as we do on every single point.
Paul’s commands to bear “with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2b, CSB) and “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3, CSB) imply it will take work to keep unity within the church and among fellow Christians. True unity never comes easily, but it is always worth it.
It’s not as simple as pointing to a meter bar and saying “There it is.” It takes work, grace and conviction to live in unity with others. It also takes the desire to see the gospel spread and a heart for others.
The resurrection reminds us we are able to have unity with each other because Jesus reconciled us to God through the cross. No matter what our backgrounds are, we are all the same under the blood of Christ. Paul’s call to unity is both a call to work hard to stay close to God and close to our fellow believers in Christ.
The true ‘meter bar’
The Bible is the “meter bar” for all who call themselves Christians.
We don’t measure ourselves by our traditions, our habits, or our history. Instead, we measure ourselves by the Word of God and focus on what we have found together in the cross: salvation and hope for the nations.
By all means, we must hold fast to the essentials, but we can’t let go of unity while holding onto the Great Commission. Do the work necessary to live in unity with fellow believers for the sake of the Kingdom and the spread of the gospel.