Unity Amongst Distinction

February 9, 2015
Adam Whitescarver

At ChattHOP, we are dedicated to serving the Lord through praying and by helping other believers to pray as well.  Closely related to this is our mission to help bring unity to the Body of Christ.

We seek unity because it is an essential ingredient in bringing God’s Kingdom to earth.  God said He would answer our united prayers (Matt 18:19) and promised in His word (Zech 8:20-22) that His Church would one day gather together for prayer, calling one another to unified prayer, in order to seek Him our Hope.  In this gathering for prayer many peoples and nations will be gathered in to likewise seek His face.

In Psalm 133:1-2 , we see that God says unity is a really good thing for believers to dwell (i.e. abide/stay/remain) in and that this unity is like a fragrant anointing (oil that symbolizes power, the Holy Spirit, etc.) running down over the head, beard (face) and neck—thus touching multiple parts of the body which is symbolic of the larger Body of Christ.  In other words: unity is good, gives us power from God and it touches more than just one part of the Church.

Verse 3 says of unity, “It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.  For there the LORD bestows His blessing, even life forevermore.”

Dew, like rain, was a symbol of blessing and provision from God (see for example 1 Kings 17:1).  But something strange is going on here: dew from one mountain (Hermon) is landing on another (Zion).  This is not only bizarre but impossible.  Mount Hermon is almost 7,000 feet higher than Mount Zion, and rests approximately 100 miles to the north.

The Psalmist (King David) is making a powerful point here: when believers dwell in unity—the impossible happens. Gifts unique to one group of brothers (such as those symbolically portrayed by Mount Hermon) are now shared by others. Looking at a map of ancient Israel and how the tribes were divided, one gains further insight: the dew from Mount Hermon would have had to travel through many different tribal territories in order to bless those in Zion.

Today we may not have tribes, but we do have different ethnic groups, national churches, denominations, different ways of speaking and different theological emphases in the Body of Christ.  None of these things are intrinsically bad.  Satan may use them, and sinful man may stumble over them, but they are important and essential, designed by God to glorify Himself and build His Kingdom and they will remain for all eternity in the Kingdom Come.

In Heaven we see the 12 Tribes of Israel remaining, as well as representatives from all people groups and languages (i.e. ways of speaking) on earth (see Rev 7:4-10).  Though unified within One Holy Nation, they remain distinguishable by John’s observance.  Even though they speak different languages still, the Spirit interprets for everyone so that they hear in their own native tongue (see Acts 2:5-12, especially vv. 6 and 8.  The miracle was not that each person spokedifferently, but that they now heard differently, each in their own tongue, regardless of where they were from!).

The Divine Trinity models perfect unity in the midst of distinct personhood.  From time eternal past to time eternal future, perfect unity amidst distinction has existed.  Since God is love, this is part of what it means to define love itself.  It perfects unity.  God does not mean for it to be different in His Body, because our differences model the manifold ministries of the Godhead.

Therefore, we must learn to distinguish the difference between distinction and division.  By His Spirit, we seek unity (according to John 17) so that we can stand in opposition to the house that would divide us.

Some Applications: 

To close, here are some practical applications I would humbly submit to my believing brothers and sisters in Christ:

  • Pray and ask for unity. Praying for unity is praying for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven.

  • Work for unity. Purposefully seek out, learn from and befriend those that are different than you in the Body of Christ. Embrace what is good while remaining true to who God has made you.

  • Learn to patiently love others that God has surrounded you with; stay faithful and as fully engaged as possible in the covenant relationships God has given you.

  • Seek to broaden your “spiritual tastebuds” to enjoy music, liturgy, church culture or theology that is different from that with which you are familiar.

So long as what is done, said or believed is within the bounds of the faithful, Biblical and historical witness of the Church, we become enriched by other streams in the Great River that flows from the Throne of God.

May God help us to love one another well and to excel in relationships with one another “that the world may know” that the Father sent Jesus as Messiah to earth and loves us even as He loves His Son (John 17:23).