Peter gave inspired instruction to the early believers as he wrote to them in I Peter. The persecution they were facing would later give way to even greater persecution. One of Peter’s burdens was to make sure that the believers were steadfast in their faith. An essential ingredient of that was the love that he spoke of in 1 Peter 1:22: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” Christians should give heavy weight to his God-breathed instruction regarding this brotherly love and unity in the body.
This past week at Grace, we reviewed five unity-crushing sins which should be put away by all Christians seeking to grow in brotherly love.
Malice is usually the driver of spiteful behavior. It is the difference between unintentional versus deliberate wounding of another and therefore can be the greatest catalyst for disunity in the church. Malice is often the result of harbored, unresolved bitterness.
Mature believers strive to deal with conflict and hurt before it leads to bitterness. Sometimes, “innocent” statements can impact others in ways not intended; humility is required in order to genuinely resolve these conflicts. Ask yourself:
“Have I done or said anything that was meant to take another believer down?”
“Have I been deeply wounded by someone and need to resolve it with them?”
On the other hand, church members ought to recall that love is not easily provoked. A member should not flippantly take offense and should not actively seek ways to hold church unity hostage due to hyper-sensitivity.
Deceit exists in many forms, but all of them are in some way a misrepresentation of the truth. Why is deceit so harmful to church unity? Wouldn’t some even say that deceit can, at times, protect unity?
Not when the root of deceit is exposed. Even in its most innocent of forms, deceit is motivated by selfishness and a lack of trust in the other person. Deceit says: “you’re not able to handle the truth the way I want you to handle it.” Deceit in this context communicates a person’s need to be in control.
Church unity thrives on mutual trust that each person can have the same potential for the Holy Spirit to be working in them. Mature Christians do not trade truthfulness to protect self interests. The outcome of that exchange is a loss of unity.
Hypocrisy is incompatible with unity because it places a person in a self-assigned, superior class. It allows a person to apply different judgment on others than they apply to themselves. It hides a person’s sins under a guise of self-righteousness. How can a church have unity if it’s members are ducking behind self-righteousness while throwing stones at those willing to be transparent? Growth is crippled in that church because the members quickly begin to obsessively cover their faults rather than deal with them.
An envious heart is a heart which has lost it’s focus on the goodness of God. It has fooled a person into thinking that God wants something less for them than the best. How can a church have unity among it’s members if they have hostile, discontent attitudes towards each other?
Believers should focus on the innumerable gifts God has given rather than obsessing over what has been given to another.
Slanderous talk comes from an unloving, selfish heart. It would trade unity for fleeting self-promotion and it costs more than most participants realize. Gossip causes damage by discussing with another what one perceives to be truthful information, but the damage of slander goes so much farther by assaulting another’s character with deliberately false statements.
Do Christians really engage in such behavior towards each other? Sadly, yes. Peter wouldn’t ask the church to put this conduct away if it weren’t possible they might engage in it. Get rid of slanderous talk. Don’t participate in it if you want to have unity in your assembly.
Putting off these behaviors requires supernatural intervention. Because we still have our flesh, we are capable of committing any of these sins. However the admonition from Peter is that each of these sins be completely removed from our lives. We have to admit that these are a constant temptation in one way or another so there is always the need for us to put any of this behavior out of our lives. How often? As often as it happens! Don’t forget the quote from Paul Tripp and David Lane who said, “When you fail, keep Jesus and his work in view. Run to your Lord, not away from him. Receive his forgiveness, get back up, and follow him once more, knowing that each time you fail, you can experience your identity as one for whom Christ died. Each failure reminds us of why he had to die; each confession reminds us of the forgiveness that only the Cross could provide.”
The good news is that there can be unity and love among believers. We desperately need it because the enemy is not one another—the real enemy is Satan who wants us to bite and devour ourselves. Do not fall into Satan’s trap in any of these areas that create disunity.
Dr. Wynne Kimbrough is the editor of this resource.
Some of the articles are written by him while others are found and shared with permission from the original authors. Some of of these authors wish to remain anonymous.