Can’t We All Just Get Along?
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In the interest of full disclosure, I hate conflict. I will go to great lengths and do almost anything to avoid it. But I know folks who appear to thrive on conflict. They are not afraid to say exactly what they mean, even if they’re pretty sure it’s going to upset someone.

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Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

When we talk about the early Christians we like to concentrate on the “all in one accord” parts of the story – they were so unified. Everybody got along and there was no conflict in the early church. But that’s not the way it was! We forget that as the disciples were setting things up, they ran in to some rough spots – some things on which they didn’t agree. We can even read in Paul’s letters in which he reminded them to not let their disagreements over who their preacher was get in the way of their belief in Jesus.

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

When I think of unity –“all in one accord”– I think of that famous scene in the movie, Spartacus. In case you haven’t seen it:

“Spartacus is a classic movie that retells the historical account of the great Roman slave rebellion in 71 B.C. Spartacus was a highly trained gladiator who escaped and led other slaves to freedom. As news of his rebellion grew, thousands of slaves joined his cause and followed him through victories and defeats.

“Near the end of the movie, a massive Roman army under the command of Senator Crassus (Laurance Olivier) captures the rebels. Although Crassus does not know what Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) looks like, he suspects that Spartacus is alive amongst the prisoners under guard. In full Roman uniform, Crassus gallops up to the mouth of the valley where the prisoners are being held and shouts an offer to them: they can escape death by crucifixion if they turn Spartacus over to him.

“Spartacus studies the ground for a moment and then nobly gets to his feet, intending to turn himself in. But before he can do so, his comrade to the left stands and calls out, ‘I am Spartacus!’ Then his comrade to the right also stands and calls out, ‘I am Spartacus!’ As the real Spartacus looks on, comrade after comrade in his slave army rises to their feet and calls out, ‘I am Spartacus!’ until there is a chorus of thousands united.”1

That scene really demonstrates the concept of unity, something that can so easily be lost in our day-to-day walk with Jesus. We get caught up in our differences of opinion about things that don’t really matter to our salvation, like whether the pews should be dark or light wood and whether the bathrooms are painted blue or green. Remember, the early Christians met in the catacombs – caves filled with dead people. I’m pretty sure decorating was not the first thing on their minds.

Unity is really, really important, but sometimes, our push for unity goes too far. We decide that unity is more important that truth, and that’s a real problem.
Check out this comment from a church leader about what is more important – unity or truth:

“If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always choose heresy.”2

This quote comes from an Episcopal bishop, Peter James Lee. What I want you to notice is what this bishop is saying. He is saying that he believes that if we ever come to a place where we have to decide between allowing false teachings into our church or standing up for the truth at the risk of causing a split in the church, we should accept the false teachings. Did you get that? Unity at the cost of truth!

Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker/t-shirt that has the symbols that represent Islam, Pacifism, Gay Rights, Judaism, Paganism, Taoism, and Christianity arranged so that they spell out the word “coexist.”

If the question is, “Can we, as Christians, get along with all these other people?” the answer is, “100% YES!”

“Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” I Corinthians 10:32-33

But if the question is, “Should we agree with all of those beliefs and practice them in our own congregations?” Then the answer is absolutely, “NO!” Unity doesn’t mean compromising the truth.

“The Texas Army National Guard has a group of special workers called riggers. Their job is to fold and pack the parachutes soldiers use when jumping from an airplane at 5,000 feet. These people are intensely dedicated to their task. The Rigger’s Creed states, ‘I will be sure always!’ They know jumpers need assurance that everything regarding their chutes is perfect. In the 20 minutes it takes to meticulously pack an MC1-1 military parachute, 30 folds are required. A jumper has nothing to do with the chute until they put it on before a jump. Trust in the error-free performance of the riggers is all a jumper has to rely on.
“The Rigger’s Creed further states: ‘I will never let the idea that a piece of work is ‘good enough’ make me a potential murderer through a careless mistake or oversight, for I know there can be no compromise with perfection.’ Riggers know that the parachute business is a life-or-death enterprise. Mistakes cost lives. There is no room for complacency.

“Do we approach our kingdom responsibilities with equal fervor?”3

Satan uses many ways to turn us away from God. He can use the everyday conflicts between people to drive us out of the church or he can use the infiltration of false teaching so we are lost without ever leaving the church.

We can’t let our salvation be threatened by disagreements with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we also must guard against compromising what we know to be truth in an effort to be unified.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1Peter 5:8

  1. Spartacus (Universal Pictures, 1960), directed by Stanley Kubrick; submitted by Bill White, Paramount, California
  2. BreakPoint with Charles Colson, (Commentary #040205, 02-05-04)
  3. Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson, Walking the Small Group Tightrope (Zondervan, 2003) p. 157-158
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Comments

Can’t We All Just Get Along? — 21 Comments

  1. Unity is so hard—especially with some people. Just two weeks ago, the elder of the church I go to compared me to Abimelech (from the book of judges.) Abimelech is the guy who murdered his brothers (70 of them) in his hunger for power (Judge 9.) That was very hurtful. I really, I mean, really really wanted to return the favor by calling him evil names too but the Holy Spirit controlled my tongue. I have decided to reduce my interaction with this particular person. I will continue to love him at a distance until Christ comes and gives us our glorified bodies that’s incapable of conflict and conducive to unity and love.

    Like(27)
  2. I like Spartacus example, it says everything. Not little dissputes but common things between brothers of Christ. Or we don't think all to be brothers?

    Like(6)
  3. Thanks Lilliane

    I heard a pastor say that unity is a commitment to Jesus, mission, prophetic messages and the structure of our church.

    Like(9)
  4. Gosh, what a hard topic.

    I have many, many, gay and lesbian friends. I really, really like them. Is there a way to be friends and friendly with them without also alienating them when trying to be true to God's word?

    Is it my role or responsibility to 'point out' their sin? Personally, I don't think it is. I think it is the role of the Holy Spirit to do so. But MY role must be to introduce them to Jesus. Help them to have a true relationship with Him. Let them seek first the kingdom of God.

    Is that being too much of a pacifist? Too non confrontational? Too lack lustre? Am I shying away from my duty, or am I inviting God to do what only He CAN do, whilst maintaining friendships and relationships?

    What's the thin line that is never to be crossed over? I have heard many hetrosexual christians speak derogatorily about lesbian, gays, transexual, transgender and bisexual people. Is it right for us to do so? Should we not hate the sin but love the sinner, without alienating them from God's love?

    Do we know how to do this as a church? Are we equipping our members with the right tools and approaches/attitudes to reach this audience?

    Like(14)
    • Carōle, you have some very thoughtful questions. Am thinking about what Jesus said in Mat. 18:15 - 17... and the concept of "Love the sinner, but hate the sin". I have no answers except for this one... "I will cross the bridge when I come to it".

      Like(4)
    • [Please use your full name when adding your comments on SSNET as advised in the Comment Guidelines. Thank you!]

      You seem to be doing the right thing by hating the sin and loving the sinner. On the other hand though you don't want to come across to your friends as being ok with their lifestyle because your are very tolerant. They must know that it is a way that God disapproves of and they must know where you stand and why. We are not to be hateful towards anyone but remember we are Christ's disciples pointing men and women to him.

      Like(4)
    • Hi Carole

      There is a perception that certain sins are not so bad while others are horrifying. This is a wrong concept. Being a gay or lesbian doesn't make you a worst sinner than being an adulterer, a liar or a thief. Do those very same people who abhor the gays and lesbians do the same to thieves, murderers, liars ,adulterers etc. As someone commented "hate the sin but love the sinner".

      We cannot save people from themselves (not our duty at all). We are to Go and teach, preach, live, do all for Christ Jesus with love in our hearts. Let the Holy Spirit do HIS work after you have delivered your message from GOD.

      Your presence will always be an affront to sinners. Sometimes not a spoken word is necessary. Complement Christ's righteousness within you with words and deeds of love always.

      However, Carole..be careful....being in the constant company of and embracing sinners always is a mighty dangerous course. Be sure that you are connected with the FATHER thru constant PRAYER and STUDY of the Word of GOD. Fueling the purity of your heart and have the Holy Spirit abide in you.

      Love always.

      Like(4)
    • Carôle, I believe you are right on track. Gay and lesbian people already know that Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin and that most don't make a distinction between a homosexual orientation and homosexual sex. Too many who come from a Christian background believe God hates them because of something they cannot change. Some have committed suicide as a result. Others find a way to reconcile their orientation and their spiritual longings that ignores the truths of Scripture.

      I believe they need to know, more than anything, that God loves them and understands them. And they need to see "love with skin on it" -- and that means that you and I have to demonstrate the love of God.

      I believe your focus is where it ought to be when you write, "But MY role must be to introduce them to Jesus. Help them to have a true relationship with Him. Let them seek first the kingdom of God." There is absolutely no point in telling them gay sex is wrong if they have no relationship with Jesus, because abstaining from gay sex is NOT going to save them!! Only Jesus saves. And when they truly know Jesus, He will lead them gently in helping them deal with their sexual orientation.

      You don't need to tell them that "gay sex" is wrong, which focuses only on their behavior. If you are clear in your own mind that there is a distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior, you can model godly self-discipline in your own life. And then, when the time is right, you can share that you believe the Bible is clear in telling us that God designed sex to be reserved for persons united to each other in the life-long covenant between a man and a woman between a man and a woman, which we call marriage. Be sure to include that no one is condemned for their sexual attractions, whether they are gay or straight. (That puts gay sex on the same plane as premarital sex and adultery.) But before you can talk about that, they need to know that you love them and that God loves them.

      Those who see the Bible as not condemning gay sex have usually developed a very different view of Scripture and, rather than address the issue of gay sex, it seems to me that it is better to address their view of Scripture. Share that you believe the Bible to be inspired by God. Share how important the Bible is in your life, and what it has done for you. Rightly understood, the Bible is a revelation of His character of love through the history of humanity. Our Creator's directives are only for our good - even when we do not understand them. (If they do not accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God, there's no point in addressing their sexual behavior, is there? You can pray for them that God will allow them to go through something that will cause them to seek Him.)

      Like(7)
    • Carole,
      Sounds like you really care about people. I also have and have had in the past friends and acquaintances who have chosen a different lifestyle. Of course, some who are church members may have tendencies to various orientations, but they do not choose to live a lifestyle that goes against the Bible and the Ten Commandments. These people have struggles that others do not, but they choose faithfulness to God anyway and can be very inspiring examples to others! However whether they choose an alternative lifestyle out of God’s will or they choose God’s will for their lives in spite of personal struggles with orientation, my job is to love and treat them with respect just like anyone else that Jesus died to save (which is everyone). Being kind, caring and reaching out to them does not mean that I condone sin. God bless us as we reach out to and respect everyone.

      Like(2)
    • Carole,
      I too have this concern. It is something that we definitely need to discuss more in order to be equipped to make these sorts of discernments as God's people. It will never be ok to speak of others derogatorily. Christ wants us to reflect His love and purity to our associates. But I also believe that if I am friends with someone one day the conversation should turn to "What does God's word say about my lifestyle? Is it pleasing to God?" The same way if I am friends with a smoker I should eventually speak to them about the dangers of smoking. I do think it is our responsibility to share God's word with them. Once I do that it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict their heart of sin. But we shouldn't just stay quiet on the issue forever because obviously God put them in our path for a reason. Ask God how to broach the subject with them

      Like(1)
      • Ketsia, I think you touch a very important truth in your comment. I remember when I understood Peter's counsel to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:". This means that our lives will bring conviction without needing to point out anything, but those seeking the truth will be compelled to ask our reasons for having our faith. The demonstration of a "sober, righteous and Godly" life will draw those seeking something better than what they now experience. Proverbs teaches us the folly of reproving a fool or a scorner, but encourages correction of the "wise", or those seeking the wisdom from above, though not even knowing where it comes from. We are told that if we have the Truth (living, breathing Truth)that God will lead those looking for Truth to us. God will open the door of opportunity when we are following Him closely, and we'll know it. I could give specific examples, but time/space does not permit. I can say with assurance, that God will lead IF we are following in all things we know of. There cannot be one sin harbored in the life (knowingly) if we are to have God directing our path. (Prov 3:5,6)

        This ability to know the right time and words cannot be taught, except of God Himself. Every situation is unique and who can understand this but the One who loves each sinner above all reckoning? God will lead His servants Himself. (Psalm 32:8) If yoked with Christ, we cannot err.

        Like(1)
  5. Unity is a byproduct of love. The Spartacus example demonstrates his followers love for him. Amongst them selves they still see some lack of unity. We can be sure that one follower of Spartacus who had the tendency to be clean, neat and well organized, still did not like the other follower of Spartacus who had the tendency to be dirty, messy and haphazard. But in their love for Spartacus and willingness to die for him was observed by us and interpreted as unity amongst his followers.
    In conclusion, Unity is a byproduct of Love. That is why the 10 commandments are summed up as: "love for God and Love for man"

    Like(10)
  6. "I will always be sure!"Am realy overwhelmed by this motto.Truth is independent of opinion and guys we should always be sure.Thanks Lilianne.

    Like(0)
  7. Unity is to be united on something specific. It's not just getting along, but a genuine oneness, equality in something all agree on. The Hebrew word echad can be translated as "alike", "equal", "united". This refers to the Godhead specifically and as Jesus prayed, all those who choose to follow and serve the Lord.

    The gifts of this united Godhead to the church are to bring it into perfect unity: "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:" Eph 4:13

    Notice the specifics of this unity, for which there is no substitute.

    In this life, such unity will require "...lowliness and meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another in love..." as Jesus demonstrated for 33 years while sojourning among us as one of us. Why? Some take a little longer to figure it out, and "ye who are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness...".

    This plan will work!

    Like(2)
  8. Becoming united in love for Christ and our individual and collective quest to know Him more and to talk about His love for all people, indeed share that love as freely as He shed His blood for the redemption and salvation and righteousness of everyone, is the desire that Christ himself has for His Church as the vehicle on earth of His Grace. That goes beyond Spartacan loyalty. That is what enabled and ennobled the martyrs of all ages to stand for Him at the cost of their very lives: no compromise. Only deep love for Him could empower Stephen to pray a prayer of forgiveness on behalf of his murderers. I believe a time is coming when all who love Jesus will be called to stand for Him. May His love make us courageous at that time.

    Like(4)
  9. Do we just go along to get along? The way I understand the expression of 'Can't we all just get along' is bound up in the following statement of the Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:9 : Let love be without dissimulation. Having a veneer of what looks like love will always result in suspicion.

    Like(2)
  10. To my knowledge we haven't had a discussion in my congregation related to gay, lesbian, transgender or, alternative lifestyle. Like my sister who asked so many hard questions, I am feeling lost where homosexuals and transgener people are concerned. I work with people who are gay and lesbian. I respect them, I interact with them on a friendly basis. But I always have the question in my mind of God says this is wrong. Should I even be interacting with them? Yes, love the sinner, hate the sin. how? please, I would like our church leaders to address this issue. We need to talk about the tough things in church that are affecting us daily. we need not hide them under the carpet and pretend they don't exist.

    Like(4)
    • Janet, should you interact with sinners? Who else is there but sinners to interact with?! It matters not the sin, but the sinner cannot be saved without interaction of a Christ-like manner, who was not sent "into the world to condemn the world". Salt is useless if not mingled with the food. All who love the Lord are the salt of the (sinful) world. We are told how to mingle effectively in 1 Cor 13 along with the many wonderful teachings of Jesus, as well as His perfect demonstration. He was so mingled that He was accused of "receiving sinners" by those who thought themselves sinless. He mingled to save, not to take part in their sinning. He is our Example and we do well to follow Him. Remember that lepers were seen as the most unclean of all men, yet Jesus touched them. He touched to heal as there was healing in that touch. And Jesus promised that we will do greater works.

      It is not our place to bring condemnation, but to lift up Jesus by our own demonstration of His grace in our lives. This in itself will bring condemnation to the guilty. Yes, like Cain, some will seek to kill Abel, just as Jesus was brought to His death by those who felt the need to hide from His holiness. This is the lot of God's true people, but in this, some will be saved. There is no other way.

      Like(5)
  11. Lillianne, I just got around to reading this article. Quite a question, "Can't we all just get along?" It seems to me that God designed His creation with an immense amount of variety and with a vast amount of differences even within species. I have even noticed a big variation in temperament and personality within groups of animals such as dogs and cats. Because of that I don't think that we should expect that we should all think and act the same way.

    From what I can see religion and politics seem to be two of the things that bring out our differences the most. I think Jesus understood this and what the effect of His preaching would have when He said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to`set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and`a man's enemies will be those of his own household" (Matt. 10:34-36 NKJV).

    I think we need to realize that we are indeed in a war. Unfortunately, often we get intimidated and threatened and tend to back off seeking comfort and peace when in fact for the Christian there is none. We can have an inner peace but outside the storm is furious and compromise never completely quiets things down. As one of the first movies in the terminator series stated, "they can't be reasoned with" so one cannot successfully negotiate with a knife to ones throat and to give in to demands only leads to more demands. Peace yes but there is a point where we need to take a stand even if it means division for our allegiance is to Christ first then to humanity second (Matt 10:37-38).

    Like(1)

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