Disagreement does not mean disunity, therefore unity does not mean conformity and this is presented as a positive statement.
Disunity has been a problem among the church and its doctrines for many years. The church is fragmented in its expression in spite of being one in Christ. This sadly is often an issue. However, insisting people must conform or agree with one another about everything does not lead to unity. By the same token, disunity is not caused directly because people disagree with one another.
There are a number of passages in the bible that demonstrate that unity can result in spite of disagreement. Let’s look at this scripture: Romans 14:15 (MSG) If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!
In the very first verse of Romans 14:1 (MSG)Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. Paul encourages those he has written to not to quarrel over their opinions. From this verse we read that there were different opinions and, as a consequence, disagreements had occurred. In further verses, Paul presents unity in spite of disagreement with two points on their insistence of their theology:-
- eating certain foods and
- considering one day as more important than others.
Each of these have become theological issues because the people with their opinion and interpretation consider the food or the day as important to their relationship with or worship of God. Paul in his writing encourages them to remain united in spite of these differences.
How does he say they should do this:-
- by each person being convinced in their own conscience,
- by not passing judgement on others because of the disagreements,
- by never causing a brother or sister to stumble against their own conscience, and
- by seeking to please others and not yourself. (This last one No4 is also written in the context of dealing with disagreements.)
It is clear that besides each person being convinced of their own opinions, all of the other exhortations focus on the other person, not on the self. When we are focused on ourselves, we will seek to lead others into agreement with us. Let us understand it is not about agreement with us as this should never be our goal, as we should be seeking to help each other in our relationships with God. As a result when we are not focused on others, then we will assume that WE are correct, that the OTHERS are wrong, and that the only way that they can grow in their relationship with God is for them to change to our way of thinking, understanding, and living. This is NOT what Paul is saying.
For our close walk with God we all must continually make sure that our focus is on Him. As Paul says, God is the source of both endurance and encouragement. Romans 15:3-7 (MSG) That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterise us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!
When we live together in this way – relying only on God, not on our ability to agree with one another – we will find that our lives are lived in unity as a choir (or the different instruments of an orchestra) join together to form beautiful music. At this point we will glorify God as with a voice of unity.