For an upcoming talk I will be giving in October, I have been studying the issue of Christian unity. I came across three statements while studying unity that are worth sharing. One thought contends “only in common ways of reading the Bible” will we have unity. Another insight says what is primary is “embodied immediately in ecclesial communion.” In other words, what matters most is church structure and authority that ensures unity among the members. The final statement under consideration here advocates that unity “is where we fight and pray together, in the same spiritual combat against the same unseen enemies, that we shall find ourselves to be one army—not become one army, but discover that we are one.”
Obviously a short article can hardly resolve all the contentious issues that surround Christian unity (does that previous sentence not sound a little strange to you?). What I would like to draw attention to is the above appeal which portends that our common spiritual warfare against our “unseen enemies” is the key to Christian unity. The apostle Paul speaks to our unity in spiritual warfare when he writes to the Ephesian Christians (Eph 6:12-18):
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.
An old cliché gives further insight into Paul’s words: “My friend is the enemy of my enemy.” In other words, nothing brings people together like a common enemy. As Christians we pledge our allegiance to our one Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ. Our common enemy is “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” exemplified particularly in the presence of the evil one—Satan. Has the church forgotten that we are under daily spiritual fire from the evil one? Is not our amnesia of spiritual warfare evident in the disunity among brethren not only in the church at large, but also within the church local? When we survey this disunity the fights do not seem to be over how to battle our common enemy as much as how to win our own preferences or arguments against one another. Now I have never fought in an actual combat situation, but I imagine that two soldiers taking fire while in a fox-hole are not debating over personal preferences, but over how together they can kill the enemy. When taking enemy fire you are not going to care much about the doctrinal, political, racial, or philosophical views of the one fighting by your side.
Please note that I am not saying that doctrine or propositional truth does not matter. What I am saying is that perhaps we might weigh differently our doctrinal differences, or whatever else is the cause of our divisiveness when we recall that the evil one wants us both dead. Perhaps more forgiveness, patience, and understanding in love would be shown our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when we see that they too are under attack? We need to turn the popular cliché, “The church is the only army that shoots its own wounded” into a lie. We need to remember we ARE one army in Jesus Christ. Our common enemy is sowing the seeds of discord among us. Let us not be outwitted by our adversary the devil. Let us rather lay down our arms against one another, and take up arms to fight our common enemy. Just maybe then we might find in our common fight that we have more that unites us then divides us?