Got Your Back
There were two soldiers who served in the same unit. Relations between them were rocky at best. One was a lion, the other a ram. Because their species are traditional enemies, the two avoided each other whenever possible, and in fact loathed each other. One day, when the country was attached, the ram charged into battle with his sword flying. Despite all his skills, however, he soon found that he was being overrun. The sheer numbers of enemy soldiers coming at him were forcing him back. He felt something brush against his tail, and knew that the enemy had encircled him. He was a goner. Then he heard the lion's voice say "I've got your back." With the lion at his back and renewed fervor, the ram was able to stand and defeat everyone who came at him.
Jesus wants us to be unified. He has said so on many occasions. He asked His Father to bring about the unity of His people. He asked the disciples to remain united. He sent Paul, who urged the church to avoid division. Why is this so important? I'll start with the least important points.
You all know the proverb "there is strength in numbers", right? Proverbs 24:6 says "6 for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers." And 15:22 says "22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." Unity creates strength. It provides for a greater knowledge pool and multiplies wisdom. And as we saw in our illustration, it increases attack power, multiplies defensive power, and encourages the heart. It also creates opportunity where none existed before. King Slomon said this in Ecclesiastes 4:
"9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
Or, if you want to get more imaginative, let's say Xyie's work on my website gets me noticed by readers. I in turn get Bob the musician noticed. Bob then sells music over the web and hires Xyie at a very lucrative rate to help him. But again, this is just one of the minor benefits of unity.
Unity improves the quality of life. The more friends we have, the less lonely we are likely to be. It also cuts down on ulcers by cutting down on fights. As Amos says in 3:3: "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" How can people fight about something they've already come to an agreement on?
Unity makes for light work by spreading it around. This may mean dividing up the chores, or it may mean partnering. Either way, a group working together means that no one has to do it alone. I'll give you a practical example of that. Two years ago, Pastor Larry was planning to give up the clothing drive because he felt like he was doing it alone. If he was doing it alone, the task would be well night impossible. But he isn't alone. The baptist church lends their Awana room for storage and work space. The other churches in the area help by spreading the word and bringing us donations of clothing ad toys. You pay for the gas money, and more importantly, you give him ME as a partner. Fred and Gail Cedarface oversee distribution at their end. And next year, one of the young men who had been part of the Refuge Youth Church is coming in as a partner, not to mention letting us use his house. What would be impossible for one is a fulfillind endeavor with many.
Being unified with others allows for an exchange of ideas. If all members of the group have open minds, it is difficult for heresies or other falacies to take hold because they will listen to one another and help one another to discover the truth. This is the key to realizing the proverbs we read earlier about many advisors. Rehoboam, to provide a bad example, had many advisors, but they did not benefit him because he was not unified with them. His mind was closed to what those who had served his father had to say, and as a result, Israel was divided until the Hasmonean era.
But the biggest reason for unity: It's just plain good. I can't tell you what a joy it is for me when I'm sitting in here and one of my friends walks in. Just having you here is wonderful. Knowing that we are united in heart and mind is icing on the cake.
Why did Jesus desire unity for His church? I can think of three reasons. The first is to act as his army. Not your typical gun-toting cadence-calling army, but one dedicated to fighting the darkness that pervades the world with love and compassion. We can have one fantastic advantage over the darkness. Satan works by manipulating others. Beyond his own demons, there is no unity. If God's people can just act in unity, we can drive back the forced of darkness. We've done it before, a little at a time. The second is to act as His team, taking the good news of Salvation to the ends of the world. Any missionary will tell you that it's virtually impossible to get the job done without support. I'm not talking about money, but prayers and words of encouragement. Finally, to act as a family. To support one another, to build each other up. When we are together, we help one another to grow, to mature in Christ, to become better people. We bear one another's burdens and care for those less fortunate. At least, that is how it works in a healthy church.
We are very fortunate here. The first CFF died because it did not have internal unity. Two of the site owners fought over doctrine, one did nothing and the last wasn't really even a Christian. We have a unity here that allows us to stand fast in the hard times and stick by one another. To paraphrase Julius from "Twins", Even when we're bad. But I would encourage each of you to look within and see if there is anything that might be driving a wedge between you and a fellow Christian. Perhaps it is pride, perhaps unforgiveness, perhaps you don't agree on whether to salute the flag. Most of these things are not worth the distress they can create, pride especially. Pride is always the first thing that needs to go.
A couple of people have expressed interest in becoming voting members of the CFF. I would invite anyone who is interested in applying for membership to come speak with myself and the other elders after the service.
Today's reading: John 10:16, 17:20-24
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 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.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.