Church of God ministers often preach a message advocating unity. It is a common theme in the Church. Church organizations that do not have it plead for it. Those that have it boast about it. And we should have unity in the Church of God. But what kind of unity and how do we obtain it?
There is a way of life that leads to peace and unity, and we need to practice that way of life. It is the way of life defined by God's law, the way of life of loving God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves. It is the way of living by every word of God. Unity and peace comes as a byproduct of that way of life. When we strive to believe and obey God in everything we think, say, and do, peace and unity result. We do not achieve unity by striving for unity. We strive to obey God, and unity results.
Unity is like happiness that way. No one achieves long-term happiness by striving for happiness directly. But happiness comes in the long run as a result of faith and obedience towards God. So will unity come that way.
Unity apart from God is worthless in the long term. We should seek to be unified with God first, and then unity and peace with each other will also come.
Also, unity within individual parts is not unity of the whole.
When we were all together in Worldwide while Mr. Armstrong was alive, we had a measure of unity and peace in the Church of God. Now, we are scattered into many organizations, and there are many scattered brethren who stay home. We are scattered and divided. Yet that does not stop individual organizations from boasting about the unity they have. And some COG fellowships enjoy a measure of peace and unity in their own organization. But not with other organizations in the Church of God.
Each of us individually, and each Church of God fellowship, should practice the way of life that leads to unity with God, and as we all draw closer to God, we will draw closer to each other, not just within organizations, but between organizations.
But it takes two to make peace and only one to make war. If you believe, trust, and obey God, you cannot be unified with someone who is not willing to believe, trust, and obey God. And the responsibility for disunity falls on those who do not fully strive to live by every word of God, not on those who are separated for their belief and faithfulness to God and to the Bible (Luke 6:22-23, John 16:1-2, Matthew 10:34-39).
Some ministers in an organization may plea for unity and may resent someone outside their organization telling them or their members that there is something seriously wrong with their doctrines or policies. They may feel that such a person is trying to create disunity within their organization. Yet, while they plea for unity within their organization, they may be following practices that divide them from other Church of God fellowships, and from God. That is not the kind of unity that God wants.
So we end up with several organizations, each trying to achieve and maintain the highest level of peace and unity within their organization, but without practicing the way of life that would lead to unity in the whole Church of God.
Then when one of those organizations splits up, the smaller fellowships that result each boast how much peace and unity each one has within itself.
Suppose sometime in the future, maybe a year from now, maybe ten years from now, United Church of God splits right down the middle because of the divisions and different views within it. I am not predicting that, but suppose it happens. Then instead of one organization with 20,000 members, you have UCG-A with 10,000 members and UCG-B with 10,000 members, each following slightly different doctrines and policies. Now UCG-A says, "What wonderful unity we have, brethren." And UCG-B says the same thing to its members. But there is no unity between UCG-A and UCG-B even though both are Churches of God and both are part of the body of Christ.
Is Christ divided? Paul asked that question of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:13). His point was not that the Church could not be divided. In fact, he asked the question precisely BECAUSE the Corinthians were divided. He was rebuking them for their division. He was telling them, in effect, Christ should not be divided, but in their case, the part of the body of Christ at Corinth WAS divided. It was not Christ causing division in His body. It was not that Christ was failing to lead. It was the Corinthians who were failing to follow Christ. We will have unity as we follow Christ, but God does not force us to follow, and to the degree we do not follow Christ we will have division in the Church of God.
What is needed for unity in the whole Church of God is a deep commitment on the part of every minister and member to fully believe and strive to live by every word of God.
But if this is the Laodicean era, and I believe it is, that is unlikely to happen among everyone in the Church before the tribulation begins. But some are committed to living by every word of God now, and more will be in the future, and in time I believe God will bring those together and they will have unity with God which will lead to unity with each other.
I have just learned that Mr. Leon Walker met with the United Church of God Council of Elders at the home office in in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 11, 2010, so it looks like both sides are making an effort towards reconciliation. This is good news. A spirit of bitterness does no one good. If nothing else, at least this will give everyone time to calm down and try to recapture a spirit of love and forgiveness towards each other and to make right decisions about the future based on God's law, not on anger. Reconciliation and forgiveness is God's way.
Here is a link to the UCG post announcing the meeting:
It may be that God is answering the prayers of ministers and members concerning this situation. Prayer does make a difference.
More to come...
Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:
A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, Chapter 5
The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5
Focusing on the Bible, Chapter 5
Will the Whole Church of God Re-unite?, Chapter 5
Church Government, Chapter 7
How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7