For several weeks, I’ve appreciated thinking about a little remark that was made among us at Ponchatoula convention. It was this, that “unity amongst us was so much more important than so many other things that we could have.” It caused my thoughts to go to that Psalm 133 which is very familiar to us, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious ointment upon the head that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard that went down to the skirts of his garments. As the dew of Hermon and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
It’s meant a lot to me to think of that precious ointment that is mentioned here. It seems that it was speaking of the holy anointing oil that the Israelites were instructed to make for the anointing of the priests, to consecrate them to the service of God in the Tabernacle. I turned back to the book of Exodus to the 25th chapter where it tells about the things that were going to go into that oil. It was to have a base of olive oil, then there was to be blended into it cinnamon, calamus, and cassia. I felt that I wanted to know more about those ingredients, those spices that went into the oil. I didn’t find out a whole lot, except that the cinnamon and cassia are made from the bark of trees. The calamus is similar; it comes from a plant, like a cane or a grass.
The thought that was so outstanding to me was that none of those ingredients would be useful in that ointment in their natural state. Each one had to be crushed. They couldn’t just put the olives and pieces of bark and the grass into a pot and have ointment. It all had to be crushed and to lose its identity, in order to make a soothing sweet smelling ointment. That’s a picture of the unity of God’s people. It speaks about it being so good and so pleasant, to be in unity like that ointment. I thought of what a soothing comforting thing it is to us when there’s unity in this family. It is soothing and comforting to the saints when they see God’s servants in unity and it is soothing and encouraging to God’s servants when they see the people of God in unity. It is also a pleasant and comforting thing to the heart of God to see both in unity together.
Unity comes at this expense, of the members, the individuals of this kingdom giving up their identity. When one looked at that ointment they wouldn’t see individual pieces of cinnamon bark and almonds and so forth, but just a wonderfully blended sweet smelling ointment.
I believe I’ve seen as never before the emphasis that Jesus put on unity in His teaching to those who were so close to Him, to those disciples. In the 17th chapter of John, I appreciated just spending some time with those verses where He was praying for His disciples. We know this was the night that He was taken and the following morning He was crucified. I felt that it would be good for me to really spend some time looking at this prayer of His. To see the things that were so heavy on His heart at this time, things that were so important on His mind before He was to leave His disciples. It stood out to me so very much how He prayed for them to be one, to be knitted together even as He and His Father had been one. Jesus and His Father were not one being, as some seem to believe in this world, but they were one in heart and mind, also in purpose, as the Holy Spirit was also with them. He was praying that among His disciples there would be this same unity of heart, of mind and of purpose.
We might just look at that 11th verse in John 17, “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee, Holy Father, keep through Thine own name, those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as we are.” Praying for those men that He was leaving behind in the world at that time, but later in the chapter it is clear that He was praying for us….for all those who had believed on Him since that time.
Verse 20, “Neither pray I for these alone but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word, that they all may be one.” That even in our day, there may be that unity that Jesus desired so much to see. Thinking of Him leaving those disciples He was leaving behind I wondered if the thing He was most concerned about was that they would be united in their efforts. There was a lot of human ability represented in those men. They weren’t called into the ministry because they didn’t have anything else going for them in life. They did have human abilities. They had strength, they had intelligence. They were people that had abilities and so forth but perhaps Jesus was trying to tell them that none of that would be of any value in His kingdom, if they weren’t united in their efforts. It caused me to feel that I need to be seeking more to be at one in this work and among God’s people.
One of the illustrations that I liked best is that of the body that Paul used in the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians. He says a lot there about the different members of the body, what they can do and that they need to be content with their place and to do what is their part to do. It’s meant a lot to me to think of the members working in harmony. And that they cannot work together in harmony unless there is the proper communication with the brain. The nervous system in our body is a marvelous thing and it’s all a matter of the hand communicating with the brain, the foot communicating with the brain and so forth throughout the whole body. It wouldn’t matter how beautifully formed the members of the body might be or what strength they might be capable of, if they’re not communicating with the brain then they just can’t work together.
I wondered if the thing that would be the most threatening to this unity in God’s family would be if the individuals don’t have the proper communication with Christ, the head. But when the body is united, there is a co-ordination that is beautiful. I thought of Jesus trying to teach them, trying to help them see the importance of that. He said to them that the kings of the gentiles exercise lordship over them but “it shall not be so among you.” That they would be the best united when they would be serving one another. He tried to teach them to serve, to take care of one another and to love one another. He then told them, ”By this, shall all men know that you are My disciples. If you have love, one to another”…..that brings unity.
I don’t know that we can really just explain what unity is but I thought of a couple of things that unity is NOT. It’s not human closeness. It’s easy to become close to individuals in a human way when you find that you have a lot in common. That can be a nice thing but it’s not unity. There is a danger that it could become a hindrance to unity when we get too close to one another in a human way. Another thing that unity is NOT, is just seeing everything exactly the same. As long as we’re in a human body and have human minds there are going to be some differences of opinion about certain things.
I appreciated remembering something that an older brother said at one time. He said, “In essentials have unity, in non-essentials have liberality but in all things have charity.” I thought that would be a good guideline for unity in general. I felt that it was being able to be bound together in love in spite of the little differences we might have. There are so many things that can threaten and destroy unity. I thought of the root of bitterness, when it springs up, it can defile many. When that happens, when others around us are affected by bitterness it might be that in us, that destroys unity. It can also be destroyed by a spirit of envy, competition. But I felt that I could do better by contributing to the unity of this family if I knew how to rejoice when others rejoice. To rejoice when they do well and get credit for it. Even if they get the credit that I feel belongs to me. Also, if I could learn to weep when others weep. Times of weeping can bring our spirits closer together. I’d like to know how to value and to work towards unity in my small area because Jesus valued it and wanted it so much for those He loved.