It has become an iconic line from the movie, A Few Good Men, back in 1992. Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson, is being interrogated during a military trial. He and Lieutenant J.G. Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise, have the following exchange:
Col Jessep: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?
LTJG Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them.
Col Jessep: You want answers?!
LTJG Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!
This week as we study The Key to Unity, I hear the words of Col. Jessep ringing in my ears as he shouts, “You can’t handle the truth!”
As a church we have so much information on the subject of unity. We know all of the notable Bible stories dealing with the subject of unity. We have our own history, both inside and outside of the church, where we have seen unity or disunity at work. We know just about everything there is to know about unity. Yet unity evades us.
The key to unity is one we won’t own. We avoid it by pushing to the forefront all of our issues that we have made into a test of allegiance. Our cultures, our methods of worship, who should preach, who should lead, what songs we sing and the instruments we use. The list is lengthy on the reasons we feel justified in not being united. But that’s not the real truth.
The truth about our disunity is that we are lacking what we most talk about – love. Our disunity is a sure sign of our distance from Christ which leads to our distance from each other.
Let’s hear what our church’s most respected author wrote about this:
The cause of division and discord in families and in the church is separation from Christ. To come near to Christ is to come near to one another. The secret of true unity in the church and in the family is not diplomacy, not management, not a superhuman effort to overcome difficulties—though there will be much of this to do—but union with Christ.
Picture a large circle, from the edge of which are many lines all running to the center. The nearer these lines approach the center, the nearer they are to one another.
Thus it is in the Christian life. The closer we come to Christ, the nearer we shall be to one another. God is glorified as His people unite in harmonious action. Ellen White, Adventist Home, pg 179
Wow. That is as plain as can be. It is a lack of love which operates in humility that allows issues and positions to keep us apart. Sadly, it is evidence of our distance from Christ.
To compensate for this glaring lack, we tout our accomplishments and possessions. Our church buildings and institutions become the areas of pride that we hang our hats upon. Not our love. Our church services, regardless of what part of the spectrum they are on, become for us evidence of a union with Christ. Not our love.
Listen to these words of Jesus:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
We are fooling ourselves if we think we would lay down our lives for a friend when we are not even willing to give up an opinion on something we hold dear.
Interestingly this week’s topics touched on leaders and unity. The divisions between the people and leaders appear to be widening. Distrust and doubt hang like a cloud over the subject of church leadership. It is a weighty matter to be a leader in any capacity, especially within the church.
The heavy responsibility of leadership includes being examples of Christian unity. That example is not one where leaders give out directions and unity depends on the members falling in line. No, the unity example that would make an impact is for leaders to place the good of the body above their own careers. It is to listen with respect to the voices of the people even when they seem contrary to traditions held dear.
Likewise, those of us not in leadership should avoid adopting the position of them against us. Everyone in leadership is not out to get us nor plotting and planning contrary to principles of righteousness. Leaders are not the enemy. They are people just like you and me who are trying to navigate through life. Instead of condemnation let’s try praying for those who lead.
The early church during the times of the Apostles grappled with potentially divisive issues. Yet, in the spirit of Christ and true Christian brotherhood, they found a path forward in unity. May their example be one we emulate. May history record that the church of our generation experienced a unity that was heaven-born. Let that be our prayer today.
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does the word respect mean to you?
- What, if anything does the Bible say about respect?
- How does respect factor into unity?
- What does respect look like within the church?
- Does respecting leadership mean that you never challenge leadership? Explain your answer.
- What does Paul mean in Ephesians 4:13, “till we all come to the unity of the faith”
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: Respect and gossip are not compatible. Explain your answer.
We close this week’s lesson with a commandment from Jesus to those who claim to be commandment keepers. May heaven help us.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. John 15:12
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!