How to Seek Unity in the Midst of Division

Unity in the Church

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Christ’s prayer for unity seems like an impossible dream. What can Christians do to promote unity with believers who disagree on basic doctrines?

“So, I hear you’ve started believing all that stuff about creationism.”

Maybe someone has said that to you, and you got the impression that they were not exactly trying to flatter you. Now you’re wondering, “What am I supposed to say next?”

Do creationists get along only with other creationists? What if you now find yourself in the position of being rejected for your beliefs?

Division Is Woven Throughout Creation

Unity and division have been part of the creation message since the very beginning of time. God created light on the first day, revealing the darkness (Genesis 1:3–4). This created the division between Day and Night (Genesis 1:5).

The second day was marked by the division “of the waters” that were in the sky and on the ground (Genesis 1:6–8). Division extended into the third day, when God gathered “the waters under the heavens . . . into one place,” creating Earth and Seas (Genesis 1:9–10).

This dramatic display of creative power provided a magnificent opening to history and shows us that division itself may offer a stunning demonstration of God’s glory. It is as if these first three days exhibited the divine reality that there would be tremendous discord between those who accept God as the eternal, sovereign source of life—with the ability to create all things out of nothing—and those who ascribe such authority to another source, or to no particular cause at all.

But a division also persists within the Christian world, which has to do with our understanding about creation. Many people who believe in God and have accepted Jesus Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, nevertheless struggle with Genesis. They hesitate—or even refuse—to concede that a literal, recent creation of all things in six days, followed by a worldwide flood, provides a sufficient explanation for “the heavens and earth that now exist” as we see them (2 Peter 3:7).

Some remain unconvinced that the most obvious reading of Genesis (a literal six-day creation) is the only legitimate way of handling the text. Others go further and ridicule those who would hold to such an arcane theology. How do we navigate this delicate situation? Should we even attempt to stand for creation—especially when others, more learned than we, do not agree with us?

In the Future, We Will Enjoy Unity

One day in the future, complete unity will exist among all believers in Jesus Christ. “The assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23) will be united in praise to God—worshipping together with impeccable harmony, extolling him for his creative power (Revelation 4:11)!

This will fulfill Jesus’ prayer for his followers—“that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21). That perfect unity is something that we cannot even comprehend now with our natural, sinful minds.

In the Present, We Must Deal with Division

Here on earth, Christians—and professing Christians—of all stripes believe all kinds of different things on every possible issue, including creation. That simply is reality.

The Apostle Paul teaches us that the goal of the church’s ministry is “building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:12–13).

Does Creation Really Matter?

We have strong biblical authority to believe that creation does matter—and “to contend” earnestly on that point (Jude 3).

Jesus taught us directly “that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4; cf. Mark 10:6), and he based important teaching on the fact that fully functioning human adults appeared very quickly after the creative launch of heaven and earth.

The Apostle Paul grounded the doctrine of salvation on creation—comparing Adam and Christ and contrasting the former’s sin and death with the latter’s victory and resurrection (Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:20–49).

These are just a few representative examples of passages that show Scripture’s emphasis on a young earth created directly by God in one week. Creation is an essential, underlying truth.

So How Do We Deal with Those Who Disagree?

Unless you are dealing with people inside a local church that is already committed (perhaps through its doctrinal statement) to teaching biblical creation, you will run into many Christians who do not share your views about creation in six days or the worldwide Flood of Noah. How should we approach such people, and how might we respond to their criticisms? Here are some practical suggestions:

1. Seek to teach those who are interested.

If someone is untaught, unsure, or mildly resistant to your views on creation, but they are willing and interested in learning more, be sure to teach them all you know. This is an opportunity to fulfill the “teaching” aspect of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20; see 2 Timothy 2:2).

Teaching others could involve something as simple as giving them a creation resource or offering to drive them to a conference.

Do not be intimidated if you are still just learning the basics. Teaching others could involve something as simple (to begin with) as giving them a creation resource or offering to drive them to a conference. But be sure to share what you have learned in a winsome and encouraging way!

2. Seek to answer those who object.

As you gain knowledge and confidence on the creation issue, you can become more adept at obeying the Apostle Peter’s command to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Peter is not here commanding us to get into arguments with everyone. His statement assumes that the other person in the conversation is at least interested in your response, even if not seeking instruction. That brings us to the third and final category.

3. Seek to inspire those who reject.

Sadly, many Christians may not understand your interest in creation and may have no desire to adopt creation views themselves. They may want to argue with you but are not truly interested in learning from you.

Pray for such people, and continue to be friendly with them, but do not let yourself get caught up in their error, and do not respond to them in kind (see 1 Timothy 6:3–5; 2 Timothy 2:16, 23–26; Titus 2:7–8, 3:9–11).

You should not waste time trying to convince people against their will (see Matthew 7:6). Nor should you make yourself obnoxious by continually bringing it up.

What you can do, however, is attempt to live your Christian life in a way that elicits interest in your views—on creation and other matters (see Titus 2:10). At the end of the day, pray that they will move closer to the truth—at least into category number two above.

Even if you are speaking to an unbeliever, you can share the creation-based gospel of Jesus Christ with “grace and truth” (John 1:14), “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). May God help us to do so, for his glory.

Paul Scharf, MA, MDiv, serves as ministry assistant to Dr. John C. Whitcomb and with IMI/SOS International, a service ministry assisting churches and pastors. He has 10 years of pastoral experience and is the author of more than 130 Christian magazine and Internet articles.

Answers Magazine

July–August 2018

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