Overcoming Disunity

Title: Overcoming Disunity

Bible Book: Selected Passages

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Unity; Fellowship; Church Life



(This sermon was prepared some time ago when I was interim pastor of a particular church, but it contains truths which are relevant for other churches as well)

Whenever the unity of a church is disrupted, it is a serious matter. A church can be effective in spite of not having some things. There are effective churches that don’t have nice facilities, or a lot of money, or good locations--and the list could go on. But the Bible makes it clear that no church, regardless of its other assets, can be effective without a spirit of unity among its members.

It has come to my attention that some disunity has developed in our congregation. I don’t know how much--but whatever the degree of it, it needs to be addressed; and let me assure you, on the authority of the Word of God, that it can be overcome. God is bigger than any problem that exists in your life or mine, and he is bigger than any problem that exists in this or any other church. He will not force a solution upon us--but if we are willing to seek his face and meet his conditions, he will restore our spirit of unity.

Unity does not mean that everyone has to see everything alike all the time. Rather, unity means that even when we don’t see things alike, we continue to love and respect one another, and treat and speak to each other with kindness and consideration. In regard to the wonderful spirit of unity that existed in the first century church in Jerusalem, Acts 4:32 says, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul....”

I love you dear folks, and I believe in you, and I am confident that you want to overcome the disunity that has recently developed--and I believe that, by God’s grace and guidance, we will do it. Let’s look together at the essentials for overcoming disunity.

First, though, I want to emphasize...


A. Jesus commands Unity.

In John 17:21 Jesus offered up this prayer in regard to his followers: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” The first purpose of every New Testament church is evangelism--bringing people to faith in Jesus--but Jesus made it clear in that prayer that we Christians must be “one”--that is, we must be in unity--in order to convince the world to believe.

B. Disunity hampers evangelism.

If unity fosters belief--and Jesus said that it does--then it logically follows that disunity fosters unbelief. In other words, when people see disunity in the church they are simply confirmed in their unbelief. They say, “If those people who claim to be Christians can’t even get along among themselves, there must not be much to it”--and they continue to turn a deaf ear to the gospel.

C. Disunity disrupts fellowship

The apostle Paul expressed his concern over the fact that there was disunity in the church at Corinth in the first century. Here is what he said to them in 1 Corinthians 1:10-11:

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.”

In that case, as we see from the verses that follow, the contentions were over loyalty to different preachers.

Later, in that same epistle, Paul dealt with problems they were having in regard to the Lord’s Supper. In 1 Corinthians 11:18 he said, “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.” Paul was saying that it might not be as bad as reported, but that he believed at least part of what he had heard about the situation. His point, of course, was that they needed to overcome their disunity--they needed to get right with each other.

And we, here in our church, need to overcome whatever disunity has developed--which means that wherever there is tension between individuals, it needs to be cleared up and made right. The apostle Paul prayed, in 1 Corinthians 12:25-27:

“That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

Now, let’s consider...


Here’s how we can remedy the disunity problem; there are seven essentials, all intertwined and overlapping, but each deserving separate mention:

A. Remain loyal to the church

If you are one of those who is hurt, discouraged, or angry, make up your mind that you are not going to abandon ship. This is no time to leave the church. The church needs your support--and I’m not talking about financial support. That’s important, but far more important is your presence, your prayers, your participation, and your good will.

Judgments formed, words spoken, or actions taken in haste are often wrong ones--especially when a person is stressed, hurt, or angry. The author of Psalm 31:22 gave this testimony: “For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.” The inspired writer of Ecclesiastes 5:2 admonishes to “...let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God....” Proverbs 14:29 says, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.”

B. Confess your part in the disunity

Each one of us should search his heart, and pray, “Oh, God, if I’ve said something I should not have said, or if I’ve said things in a wrong attitude, with sarcasm or in an accusatory spirit, help me to be honest enough to face up to it and apologize for it. Help me, Lord, to be big enough and humble enough to say, ‘I was wrong,’ and help me to approach the person or persons and tell them so and ask their forgiveness.” James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another....”

C. Forgive any who have offended you

If you feel you have been on the receiving end of some sarcastic, harsh, or accusatory comments, be big enough and charitable enough to forgive the person or persons who made those comments. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Ephesians 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

D. Guard your tongue

This fourth step in overcoming disunity cannot be overemphasized: Please, please, please--from now on, be careful as to what you say, and as to the spirit in which you say it. I wish I knew how to get that into the mind and heart of every last one of us. Regardless of how faithfully you attend church, or work in or for the church--if you allow yourself to be sarcastic, or “short,” or accusatory in what you say, you can do all sorts of damage. The thing you’re opposing may be wrong, but if you express your opposition in a sarcastic, short, accusatory, critical manner, you are also wrong, and you thereby are hurting instead of helping, regardless of how right your position or opinion may be.

And don’t let yourself off the hook by saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” You can be a better “am” than that--and God will help you to change your way of expressing yourself if you’ll face up to the need for it, and ask him for his help. All of us have to deal at least at times with the tendency to let our tongue get out of control, and some folks have a problem with that a lot of the time. But God will strengthen all of us if we’ll face the problem and ask him for his help. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue....”

E. Don’t judge the motives of others

Please resolve that you will not judge other people’s motives. Allow that each person expressing an opinion, whether it agrees with yours or not, is expressing what they sincerely believe is best for the church and for the Lord’s work. Don’t assume that anyone is simply “trying to get his own way.” Rather, assume the best. In Matthew 7:1-3 Jesus said:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be

judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And

why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the

beam that is in thine own eye?”

Someone says, “Yes, but I know that person; they always try to have it their way”--but again, how do you know they aren’t always contending for what they believe would be right and best for the church and for the Lord’s work? The answer is, you don’t know, and neither do I. If they are just trying to get their own way, the Lord will deal with them on that score. But it is not for you and me to judge. Only God knows what is in a person’s heart.

In James 4:11-12 we read:

“Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgeth another?”

F. Remember that the church is a family

Remember what we, as a church, are. Galatians 6:10 speaks of the church as “the household of faith,” and Ephesians 2:19 uses a similar expression, “the household of God”--both verses indicating that the church is a spiritual family.

Would anyone here claim that you never had a disagreement within your family? Surely not. What did you do when a disagreement occurred? You didn’t leave your family. You didn’t go around with bitterness in your heart toward that other family member, or stop associating with that person--at least I hope you didn’t. What you should have done, and I trust you did, was to work together to find some solution to the problem that all of you could live with. That’s the way a family is supposed to operate.

So, please do your very best, as an individual member of this beloved church, to be a promoter of peace and harmony--and, as already emphasized, essential to being a peacemaker is to choose your words thoughtfully and wisely, be careful of your attitude, give others the benefit of the doubt, confess whatever you’ve done or said to offend others, and forgive any who have offended you.

Jesus said, in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Psalm 133:1 declares, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”

G. Don’t forget that disunity is disobedience

Still another essential for overcoming disharmony in the church is inseparably intertwined with what has already been said about our being a family: Remember that Jesus said, in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another.”

Now, a command is not primarily an appeal to the emotions, it is primarily an appeal to the will. To obey a command, you don’t sit around waiting for some warm, fuzzy feeling to come over you. To obey a command, you simply make a hard-nosed decision to do what the one in charge has told you. You folks who were in the military are quite familiar with that truth. So, in obedience to Christ’s command, decide, make up your mind to love others, regardless of whether or not you consider them loveable, and whether or not they reciprocate. Edwin Markham hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

“He drew a circle that shut me out,

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;

But love and I had the wit to win;

We drew a circle that took him in.”

Jesus said, in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” In 1 John 3:14 we read: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” 1 John 4:7-8 says: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

Folks, the disagreements and hurt feelings over the recent controversy need not continue. If every one of us will heed what has just been said--not because I said it, but because it’s from the Word of God--we will overcome the disunity and, in fact, be more unified than ever before. So I’m asking you to push your “delete” button, and put absolutely behind you any strained or wounded feelings that you might have had. We’ve got important things to do by way of reaching people with the gospel and advancing the Kingdom of God. To do that effectively, we must maintain and guard our spirit of unity. Here’s what the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1-6:

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation

wherewith ye are called. With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering,

forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the

bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope

of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is

above all, and through all, and in you all.”

I realize that there are among us varying levels of spiritual growth; some have been saved longer than others, etc.--and I’m sure that there are probably varying degrees of commitment. Because we are sinners saved by grace, we all have our weaknesses and even our “blind spots”--that is, we all probably have certain weaknesses of which we ourselves are unaware, so we all need to pray for God to open our eyes to those things in our lives that need to be corrected.

But all of that notwithstanding, I believe that this dear church is made up of sincere Christian people who want to do the right thing--and I have confidence in you folks, that you’re going to take seriously this plea, and that we’re going to move forward in unity. We must do so--for the glory of God, for the good of our reputation as a church, and for the sake of those whom we need to reach and encourage. In light of all that is at stake, we can’t afford to do otherwise.

I have been speaking to Christians, but I also want to say a word to those who have not yet committed your lives to Christ. God loves you. He loves you so much that he came down to this sin-battered, sin-scarred earth in the person of Jesus Christ, died on the cross to take the punishment for your sins and mine, and offers to save all who repent of their sins and yield themselves to him in faith. To surrender to him today would be the grandest and wisest decision you could ever make--and he bids you come. In Revelation 22:17 we read these words of entreaty: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

When you come to him in repentance in faith, he will forgive your sins, assure you of a home in heaven when you die, and during the remainder of your life on this earth will make available to you spiritual resources for living a victorious life. He will help you up and and forgive you when you stumble, and he will help you to be stronger the next time around. For example, he is going to help the people of this church to overcome the disunity that has developed--and if you surrender your life to him, he will help you to overcome the problems in your life.

To all believers in this congregation: Ask God to speak to you at the point of your personal need. Ask him to reveal to you sins that need to be confessed and new beginnings that need to be made--and claim his wonderful promise, recorded in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Posted in


Scroll to Top