This article was first published by the author in the Christian magazine Emphasis on Faith and Living in the spring of 1987.
Psalm 133 tells us that unity among the brethren is like the oil that was used to anoint the priests of Israel. At first, this seems like an unlikely comparison. But further study reveals the mystery of that statement.
In Exodus 30:23-25 we read God’s instruction to Moses regarding the preparation of a holy anointing oil. This oil was created to anoint the Priests of Israel as well as the furniture within the tabernacle. It was a unique blend of spices to be made by a master perfumer. Myrrh, cinnamon, cane, and cassia, ingredients that had a distinct fragrance all of their own, were blended together, along with olive oil, to create a fragrance that had never existed before, a new kind of oil for God’s unique purposes. Yet, to the discerning nose, the aroma of each individual spice could still be found. Cassia was not made to smell like myrrh, nor was the scent of cane changed to smell like cinnamon.
What an exciting analogy this is of how the Body of Christ can achieve unity. As individual believers, we are like the different fragrant spices: distinctly ourselves yet joined by the oil of the Holy Spirit for one purpose: to be an expression of a proclamation of the One who redeemed us and brought us out of darkness into His marvelous and eternal light. Our individuality is never sacrificed, yet through bonding of the Holy Spirit we become one.
Many have confused the call to unity for a call to uniformity. Some Christians seem to think that, “…if everyone sees things from my point of view, if everyone does it my way, then we can achieve unity.” We often see this in differing opinions about modes of worship, baptism, how we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Spiritual Gifts, etc. This is a focus on uniformity of external actions rather than upon unity of faith in Christ Jesus. This causes division that tears the church apart and renders her powerless against the forces of evil and blunts her witness before a watching world.
What is unity then, if it is not uniformity? Webster’s dictionary defines unity as “continuity of purpose.” Unity in the Body of Christ will happen only when we come together with a single vision of purpose. That single purpose is stated for us in I Peter 2:9, which says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We as individuals and as the Church corporate, have been called to be a living and breathing proclamation of Jesus and His redeeming work. This is the Christian’s life-purpose; this is the Church’s unifying goal.
The unity which Christ prayed for in John 17, will come only by recognizing that all Christians are called to be a proclamation of Christ. If we are intent upon this one purpose, the love of Christ will transcend and cover our differences. Let us come together intent upon one purpose, and in that purpose truly become one.