The Priceless Gift of Christian Unity

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Founder & Teacher,

Without God’s word, we cannot assess the gift of brotherhood as highly as we ought.

When I was asked to speak at a gathering of Bethlehem Baptist Church celebrating one hundred years of ministry between four pastors and their wives, I turned to Psalm 133. Two couples have served more than thirty years each, and the other two have served twenty each, for a total of one hundred years of fruitful labor. Their service is a priceless gift, and it is good for us to reflect, every once in a while, on unity and brotherhood in ministry.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1–3)

So, consider three glimpses of the priceless gift of the unity among these four pastors, who, of course, could not have done what they did without their wives.

1. Unity is good and pleasant.

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” It is good — it is what it ought to be. It is pleasant — it is what we want it to be. It is what God requires. And it is what we desire. It is their duty to be unified. And it is our delight that they are unified.

Not everything that God says is good is also pleasant. There are many things in life and in ministry that are good and right to do but that just are not pleasant to do. Unity among pastors is not one of those. It is a special kind of gift to a church. It is morally right, and a cause of great rejoicing.

Nothing satisfies the soul of a Spirit-filled church like the wonderful coming together of what ought to be and what we want to be in pastoral unity.

The unity of these pastors has been what it ought to be theologically — fully biblical; what it ought to be spiritually — going hard after all the fullness of God; what it ought to be financially — above reproach; what it ought to be sexually — unimpeachable faithfulness to their wives, and their wives to them. This is a good unity.

And it has been pleasant to us. Are not these four shepherds easy to like, easy to enjoy being around? Is it not pleasant that these shepherds are so easy to laugh with and cry with? Have they not pointed us to God and put us at ease a hundred times? And is it not pleasantly so that in their presence you do not feel that they are looking for your flaws, but ready to cover a multitude of sins?

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in gospel unity!”

2. Unity is precious.

“It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!” To be sure, this oil is precious. We have already seen: it is good and it is pleasant. That’s not the emphasis. What is? It’s on the head, then on the beard — not just any beard but the beard of the high priest, and then dripping off the beard onto the collar of his robe. What’s the point? This is excessive.

The unity — the good, pleasant unity — the biblical, theological, spiritual, ministerial oneness of the shepherds of the church — is an excessive gift to the church. It is more than we deserve. Remember that every day that goes by when these brothers are living and ministering in deep and joyful camaraderie, we are receiving a gift way beyond what we deserve.

If the oil is wonderfully fragrant, and if it is soothing to the sun-parched skin, and if it is full of symbolism of divine anointing, the point here is that this unity is all of that excessively. If we experience this from our pastors, it is more — excessively more — than we deserve. You should be affected by this when you shake their hands.

3. Unity is life-giving.

“It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”

Follow me carefully. Mount Hermon was the highest mountain in Israel. Its dew and gentle rains kept the hills alive with moisture. One hundred and twenty miles to the south is little Mount Zion, Jerusalem, the city of David, the holy place where people met God in his tabernacle. Unity among brothers is like the life-giving dew of Hermon settling on Zion. Why is it like that?

The last two lines of the psalm begin with “for.” So here comes the basis of this comparison. The unity of brothers is like the life-giving dew of Hermon settling on the mountains of Zion “because there [in Zion] the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” Picturing unity as life from on high, settling on the place where people meet God, is a perfect picture because there — just there — God gives eternal life.

God-centered, Messiah-exalting, Scripture-saturated, gospel-shaped unity among brothers is the presence of divine life — eternal life — in our churches. Christ commanded life at the grave of Lazarus. And there was life. God commanded life, and these pastors lived and became one in that eternal life — all for our good and pleasant and excessive blessing.

Deep in the Mind of Christ

It almost goes without saying that unity among brothers and sisters does not mean having the same tastes and preferences on a hundred issues. For example, when Paul says in Philippians 2:2 that we should be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind,” he is not referring to favorite music, favorite food, favorite sports, favorite clothes, favorite authors, and favorite charity.

The “mind,” “love,” and “accord” that are supposed to be the same are described in verses 3–8. They are the mind-set of counting others more significant than yourself, and looking out for the interests of others, and reflecting the mind of Christ in his self-emptying servanthood. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who . . . emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant . . . ” (Philippians 2:5–7).

The precious, pleasant, excessive blessing of unity on a church staff is more than this. But not less. And this humble, servant mind-set is the heart-key that unlocks the door of reconciliation over and over again, and makes a hundred years of sweet partnership possible. May God grant every church to sink its roots deep in the mind of Christ that moved him from the highest place to the lowest for the sake of love.