The unity of the body of Christ and the way we come together to worship has been central in my thoughts this week. We are each unique individuals with differences in temperament, personality, experiences, age and abilities yet we are all called to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth and to do so in unity of purpose.
For human beings to be in unity for any length of time is not a natural phenomenon. It does not happen often and when it does, it doesn’t tend to last very long. Those very traits that make us unique can work against us when it comes to getting along with others. And then there is the bigger problem of sin and the way we express our fallen nature through selfishness and insistence on our own way to the detriment of others.
How then, can selfish people who have so many differences come together to form a healthy, growing, effective local body of believers (church)? Quite simply, it requires the laying aside of personal preference and personal ambition in favor of seeking to worship God and then out of that, loving and serving one another. When each of us has the goal of entering into the presence of God in corporate worship and is willing to lay aside our own will and our own desires then God can perform the miraculous task of causing the many different parts of the body of Christ to work as one complete unit. And the word “unit”, if you didn’t already see it, is only one letter short of the word “unity”. When the unit is working together towards the same goal then unity occurs!
Unity is difficult to achieve because selfishness can be sneaky. To be human is to prefer some things over other things and it is certainly ok to have those preferences. I may prefer traditional hymns but my friend may prefer contemporary music. I might prefer the thermostat to be set on 68 while he might prefer 72. But when we insist upon our own preferences in a corporate worship setting (either verbally or just in our hearts and minds as a silent complaint) instead of laying them down and setting them aside for the goal of true worship then we have allowed selfishness to get in the way of unity. It takes a conscious decision to not insist upon our own wills and instead tell the Lord that only His will truly matters.
It takes the power of the Holy Spirit and practice and preparation to get to the point of being able to lay ourselves aside. It most certainly does not happen naturally but it absolutely must happen for a church to function for the glory of God. To mature as a believer and to grow as a Christian we must practice and perfect the ability let go of what we think and feel in our own hearts and minds in favor of what God thinks. When you have a group of people who are willing to do that and come together for the purpose of growing God’s kingdom then you will find a church who is doing great things for the glory of God.
He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30) NASB