A great deal of attention has been given to Jesus' prayer for unity and oneness among all Christians, and no doubt this is an extremely important reality for us to pursue and enjoy. However, it appears that too many in the Church, with a sincere concern to make Christ's prayer a reality, have insisted on a superficial brand of unity by sacrificing truth to get it. Who are we to feel the pressure of answering Jesus' prayer to the Father? Instead, our responsibility is to follow the instruction found in God's Word for Biblical community and the purity of the Church.
Sadly, much compromise is taking place in the Church in the name of unity. After all, inherent in the definition of the word unity is the dismissal of certain differences for the sake of emphasizing more important commonalities. And unity does requires grace for our brother as well as the laying down of one's desires and opinions in order to prefer another. This is the high price of humble, unified, Biblical community that is motivated by God's love, which He has given us for one another. However, it seems that many will do almost anything in the name of unity, even forfeit sound, historical doctrine. While this is their sincere goal, there cannot be genuine unity where there is not doctrinal unity, especially regarding primary points of belief and practice. And we are to be discerning and willing to distance ourselves from or even expose and correct those whose lives contradict the those Truths.
We must understand that to hold to a Biblical standard for fellowship can be divisive, as the unity for which Christ prayed must always be based on truth. And while truth gives life, it is by nature exclusive. Isn't it our true Biblical Christian unity, by the Spirit of Christ, that makes us unique from the world? So, it follows that there must be division if we are to maintain a pure unity with one-another. The wall of division from the outside is necessary to have unity within.
This means, in order to preserve pure a Biblical sense of unity within the Church, we must be willing, when necessary, to...
Those who hold unity above doctrine often misinterpret both John 13:35 and Matthew 7:1-6.
At the end of the day, we are not told to unify with those who simply profess to be believers or with those who simply profess to agree with sound doctrine. We must be like the Bereans, who tested the life and message of even the Apostle Paul. This is precisely why doctrine matters more than so-called "unity," because we cannot expect agreement in our worship and in our behavior until we first have agreement in our belief.
We must love God humbly and approach His truth honestly if we are to have the unity with the saints for which Christ prayed. while biblical unity may demand we cross denominational lines, true unity is not merely organizational in nature. It does not mean we must worship in the same room or in the same ways. However, it does mean that we be willing and able to worship together free of any substantial theological distraction. And where the Church has been guilty of allowing these differences of opinion, practice, and degree to cause sinful division, we are without excuse and should repent, forgive, and love one another with the love of Christ.
But this is not the primary battle for unity in most of the visible Church today. Today, the battle has less to do with a lack of grace for true brothers, and more to do with a lack of discernment needed to confront irresponsible brothers or identify false brothers. The chasm separating important doctrinal positions of many of today’s evangelical church leaders is vast, yet many of them are all-too-happy to partner together for the sake of unity and the Gospel. We ought to be encouraged by their commitment to unity, but at what cost to The Message? Does it not matter what we believe about the trinity, about God’s Word is, whether or not women can have authority in the church, or if faith in Christ’s death is enough to be saved? The strong words of the Apostle Paul to pastor Timothy are helpful...
Believing doctrine matters will mean doing these things that Paul commanded pastors to do. At times, they will appear divisive, and in some cases will be. But it is absolutely necessary in order to protect the true unity of the Church. We must recognize that with so much easy-believe-ism and deceptive teaching, its irresponsible, naive, and dangerous to not be discerning. We do this to guard the immature brother, to see saved the false brother, and ultimately for Christ and the purity of His Church. Unity, even at the expense of doctrine, may sounds noble to some, however, we are primarily a people of beliefs who have a message. And the more false religions, doctrines, and teachings we endorse by ecumenical and syncretistic partnership, the more diluted our message becomes, and to dilute the Biblical Gospel at all hollows it of its power to save!
Church leadership is ultimately where this movement gains ground. The leaders of influential churches, denominations, and conference planners are typically the ones even giving the Church these opportunities. And may we have have more pastors and spiritual leaders who will both defend and feed sheep! Doctrine matters more than any false brand of unity, and it matters enough to demand nothing less than a unity worthy of Christ Himself!