Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Psalm 133:1 ESV

The KJV uses the word “brethren” instead of brothers. And while David was not specifically referring to those of us (tongue in cheek) referred to as “the brethren”, he would certainly apply it to us if he could have seen the future.

The unity of the Spirit is an undisputed truth. Unfortunately, it is something Paul had to exhort the Ephesians (and us) to endeavor to keep. Living out the reality of unity in the body of Christ requires hard work.

It is crucial to decide what beliefs and practices are essential to unity, and we must be so very careful about what we allow to divide us.

There are three categories that each of our differences can be sorted into. As we evaluate those differences according to categories, we can determine whether or not they are issues that should or shouldn’t divide us.

Salvation issues

There are certain doctrines, such as the deity of Christ and salvation by grace alone through faith alone, that are key to our salvation. (the “ones” in Ephesians 4 are a good measure of salvation truths.) If these foundational doctrines are not believed or practiced, this person is not a genuine Christian. As such, we do not have fellowship with them, on either an individual or denominational basis.

Simply put, we are not jointly part of the body of Christ.

Thus there is a division.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 (ESV)

This division does not mean we have no interaction with the unsaved. We work with unbelievers, and live with them, and certainly love them. But our interaction is from a gospel standpoint, with the goal of persuading them to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

This is a different interaction than with believers.

Doctrinal divides

In the universal body of Christ, there are many members, with many different beliefs and practices along the spectrum.

These are brothers and sisters in Christ, who may practice infant baptism, or have a different eschatological viewpoint. They may or may not have pastors. The women may or may not cover their heads.

But, they are genuine believers. They hold the same salvation doctrines.

As such, we may not feel the freedom to be in regular weekly fellowship with them. But we should be praying for them and their ministries. And we should be working together in any way that furthers the gospel.

And frankly, our hair shouldn’t curl over the idea of occasionally visiting their Sunday meetings. Go, visit, be blessed, and be a blessing.

After all, we will all be in heaven together, jointly worshiping before the throne of God. The brethren won’t have their own exclusive wing in the mansions, separate from the Baptists or E-frees or charismatics.

Non-essential nonsense

Ironically enough, this is the category that gets us in trouble. We aren’t fighting over key doctrines, we are fighting (and dividing the body) over paint colors and hymn books, hem length and neckties, Bible versions and meeting times.

Oh, I’m sure that makes God so happy. (insert sarcastic tones)

Actually, we know it is the reverse.

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him…one who sows discord among brothers.

Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV)

Why do we persist in insisting on our preferences? (And I’m just as guilty as the next person.) If there is not a chapter and verse, there’s grace. Oh, so much grace.

We must endeavor, put some serious elbow grease, into keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Graciously defer to someone else’s view and preference. Humbly hold our opinions loosely for the sake of unity and love.

Why is this critical? The world is watching how we are loving each other. They are not impressed when we can’t get our act together. They don’t “know us by our love” when we can’t get along over something as petty as ______ (you fill in your blank).

We should not EVER be dividing over these non-essentials.

And should they?

Unity is not a walk in the park. It is hard to achieve. We are all sinners saved by grace. We bring our own baggage of quirks and faults and sins into the local assembly.

But, if our focus is on the glory of God, and our methodology is deference powered by agape love, we will be able to discern what is essential and what isn’t.

There are things that should divide us. There are things that shouldn’t divide us.

May God grant us wisdom to know and live the difference!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.

Bernadette Veenstra

Bernadette was saved at a young age and has been involved in assembly work for the past 20 years. She and her husband have 4 children and they have been home schooling for the past 12 years. She is an avid blogger and you can find her over at

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