The New Testament world of the first century was divided by caste, social status, and gender.
It was a society in social turmoil. The concepts of equal rights, freedom, and human dignity were not the accepted norms.
Then Christianity burst upon the scene. It created a social revolution. Jesus’ teachings of equality, justice, concern for the poor, and respect for the marginalized appeared radical. At the same time, New Testament believers united around the core values of Creation and Redemption. They taught that all human beings were created by God and that Redemption was made available to all people through the cross of Christ. The Cross showed that each person, regardless of his or her worldly status, was of immense value in God’s sight.
What images could be more powerful to illustrate unity in the church? The apostle Paul uses the body to illustrate the church and its members. The body is closely knit. Its members are inter-related and mutually dependent upon one another. All parts have their function. If one part of the body suffers, the entire body suffers (1 Cor. 12:18-26).
Peter adds the illustration of a spiritual building with the members as stones, each fitting perfectly into the construction of a glorious temple that will glorify Jesus’ name. In these illustrations, each member is intimately linked. It was this bond of loving unity in a world of fractured relationships, power struggles, and divisive schisms that was to be a powerful argument for Christianity. Jesus stated this universal truth clearly: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, NKJV).
How well does your local church reflect the unity spoken about here? Ask yourself, too: are you helping to bring unity, or what attitudes might you be harboring that could be adding to the problem?