I have heard (and read) much within the past week on so-called Christian â€œunity.â€ (And, frankly, the quotation marks could, and probably should, be placed around both words.) It has been in the news â€“ as pastors and presidential candidates face off, and the meaning of â€œcultâ€ is, once again, (re)defined.Â It has been the topic of much debate within some conservative, reformed, Christian circles.
â€Ž”…it may appear unkind to suggest a professing Christian is not a true follower of Jesus. And it may seem kind and gracious to call someone a true Christian just because he professes to be and thinks he is. But if he is not a true Christian who believes in the true Christ revealed in Scripture, it is terribly unkind. Why? Because the worst possible condition for unbelievers is to think they are believers.” ~Randy Alcorn
Today, it is deemed intolerant or judgmental to disagree with someone’s professionÂ of “Christianity.” Â We are expected to nicely â€œAgree to Disagree,â€ as the saying goes…for the sake of “Christian” “unity,” of course.
Although written/preached to the church in 19thÂ century England,Â J.C. Ryleâ€™s words are just as timely, just as relevant (to use another favorite post-modern buzz-word), and just as applicable today as they were in centuries past.
Specifically, in his commentary on the book of Matthew, addressing chapter 10, verses 34-42, Ryle says this:
â€œâ€¦remember that his Gospel will not cause peace and agreement wherever it comes.Â â€˜I did not come to bring peace, but a swordâ€™ (verse 34).Â The object of his first coming on earth was not to set up a millennial kingdom in which all would be of one mind, but to bring in the Gospel, which would lead to conflicts and divisions.Â We have no right to be surprised if we see this continually fulfilled: we are not to think it strange if the Gospel tears families apart and causes estrangement between the nearest relations.Â It is sure to do so in many cases, because of the deep corruption of the human heart.Â So long as one person believes, and another remains unbelieving, so long as one is resolved to keep his sins, and another is desirous to give them up, the result of the preaching of the Gospel must be division.Â For this the Gospel is not to blame, but the human heart.
There is deep truth in all this which is constantly forgotten and overlooked.Â Many talk vaguely about â€œunity,â€ â€œharmonyâ€ and â€œpeaceâ€ in the churchof Christ, as if they were things that we ought always to expect, and for the sake of which everything ought to be sacrificed! Such persons would do well to remember the words of our Lord.Â No doubt unity and peace are mighty blessings; we ought to seek them, pray for them and give up everything in order to obtain them, except truth and a good conscience.Â But it is an idle dream to suppose that the churches of Christ will enjoy much unity and peace before the millennium comes.â€ (Matthew, pgs. 78-79, emphasis added.)
And with that, the words of Ecclesiastes come to mindâ€¦
â€œWhat has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, â€˜See, this is new?â€™ It has beenÂ already in the ages before us.â€ ~Ecclesiastes 1:9-10