The Psalmist declared, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). Unity is one of those special things which is both good and pleasant. It is good for us in the sense that it is healthy, and calculated to make us better people. But it is also pleasant in that its effects are enjoyable, and its experience is truly a pleasure.
Taking properly prescribed medication, or undergoing physical therapy, is usually good for us, but is not ordinarily pleasant. In fact, it may be very unpleasant. But we understand that we need to experience it in order to grow, heal, and develop as we should. On the other hand, eating a large bowl of ice cream every night at bedtime may be a very pleasurable experience, but is probably not good for us! Unity is one of those rare things which is both healthy and enjoyable, both good and pleasant.
Unity is good for us, both individually and collectively, because it allows for the full development of our God-given potential, and encourages maximum growth and achievement in the congregation. Churches which have learned the secret of unity, and are practicing it, are on the march! They are healthy and strong because they are working together for a common cause. Each member is supportive of the whole, and is submissively obedient to the Head. Like a mighty army, such congregations march together with amazing precision and overwhelming effectiveness. They create impressive histories in a short time.
But a unified congregation is also a particularly pleasant experience. Gone is the strife, the backbiting and politics which typically characterize man-made groups. There is no worry or concern on the part of the members that they are going to be scrutinized and crucified by one another. Each member feels loved and supported, and is actively seeking ways to encourage the other members. They tend to over-look slights and would-be occasions of stumbling. They keep in mind that love “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,” (1 Cor. 13:7). They are not easily offended, and are quick to forgive.
Outsiders can easily observe the effects of unity, and they are favorably impressed. That’s why Jesus prayed that all of his followers might be one, “that the world may believe that thou didst send me,” (Jn. 17:21; cf. 23). Congregations which are united are influential in their communities. They are respected and admired. They are making a positive difference.
Unity must be made, it must be meaningful, and it must be maintained. It is not an accident which comes about without trying, and without diligent effort. It is not based upon fleeting fads or the shifting sands of human opinions. And it is lovingly tended and encouraged.
A unified group of brethren is truly a sight to behold. “Behold! how good and pleasant it is…” Like a fine work of art, it deserves our respect and admiration. When we come upon a unified congregation, we should pause and study it carefully. We should seek to understand how this was done. And how is it continuing? Time spent in studying the mechanics of congregational unity is time well spent.
Wise elders are concerned about unity. They know that division is the devil’s playpen. He relishes in strife and contention. Decisions which bring about disunity are to be devoutly avoided. All spiritual leadership ultimately looks to the unifying Head, Jesus Christ. Godly elders understand that as individual members of the church move closer to Christ, they are moving closer to one another. Somewhat like skilled orchestra conductors, they realize that as the members more perfectly imitate Christ, they are moving in tighter harmony one with another. They are learning to complement and fit in with each other, and make beautiful music together. They are more concerned with the sound of the entire group than with their own. As we take a closer look at the biblical concept of unity, remember the importance of this subject. Remember how precious unity in the Lord’s church really is, in that it is both good and pleasant! I would encourage every member of the congregation to meditate carefully upon these principles, and to prayerfully consider how he or she might improve in this area. There is always room for improvement in every congregation in the area of unity, and efforts to do so pay big dividends!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.