Before Jesus left this world, He prayed earnestly for the unity of God’s people. Unity is a sign of true discipleship. Jesus prayed “that they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). “That they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me” (John 17:23).
A third scripture showing the sign of true discipleship is John 13:34-35. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another . . . by this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In these scriptures, we see that unity and love are the true signs of genuine discipleship. If the love of God is in our hearts, then unity among us will not be lacking (Romans 5:5). The love of God will always compel us to pursue peace with all people (Hebrews 12:14).
Since the Word of God commands us to love our enemies, and since through the grace of God, even this is possible, how much more should it be possible to be in unity with our brothers and sisters, unless of course, we have lost our first love (see Revelation 2:4).
Today, we see an increasing trend of disunity within the Church of God. Each group claims to be the Church of God and to have the truth. And they all pray for unity. Prayer alone is not enough. We need to put into practice our prayer for unity and do what is needed so that unity will once more be a reality.
In his book “What the Bible teaches,” Brother F.G. Smith writes: “We must build bridges. Every split within the Church of God is a cause of disobedience against God’s command. In the Old Testament, God was often compelled to severely punish the people of God due to their disobedience (1. Samuel 15:22-29). When the Israelites confessed their disobedience and humbled themselves before God, the Lord showed compassion and helped them. What the Lord expected from the Old Testament people of God, He expects of us today, namely: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:9, NIV). “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment” (Zechariah 8:16, NIV).
In the New Testament, we find scriptures along the same lines. These scriptures demand us to genuinely examine ourselves but also to act. We show mercy and goodwill to others if we forgive their errors instead of judging and condemning them, knowing that we, too, are still in the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:3; Philippians 1:24). Every child of God must strive not to let evil thoughts enter in. Then we will not have the temptation to share them with others. We need to keep our mouths from speaking hastily and sharing gossip (James 1:26). Much harm will be circumvented if we do this. In Psalm 141:3, David prays: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
We want to keep our feet from following our impulse and from hastily sharing with anyone whatever we have heard. Instead, we want to make haste and clear away those stones that are obstacles to unity. And even if those obstacles are great, we want to do all we can to eliminate them. The Word of God tells us: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). (See also Colossians 3:12-17.)
How is the world to see where the truth is and where the Church of God is to be found? Only if love and unity are found there! If we have these characteristics, it will also be visible to outsiders. The way the two witnesses, the Word of God and the Spirit of God, are at work in our hearts internally, so love and unity will be actively at work externally.
Brothers and sisters, we bring guilt upon ourselves, with respect to those lost souls who are seeking the truth, if they cannot see love and unity among us. Therefore, we want to get to work, humble ourselves, and take the necessary steps to restore unity, so that at this time, which is close to midnight, the characteristics of the true Church are once again visible. The Lord will show us what we need to do. And He will help us. We need to heed the voice of the Holy Spirit.