The lack of unity in Christian circles is legendary. Most attempts at forging unity focus on either doctrinal agreement (and define unity as agreement with specific points) or on organization cooperation (agreement to submit to one ecclesiastial authority). By the way, I think these two kinds of bogus unity are what the false church grapple with in the Revelation prophecy about forcing their adherents to have the mark of the beast “in the forehead” (doctrinal agreement) or “in their hand” — cooperation or organizational agreement.
I think the Biblical position is that God created the unity when he chose those who are in reality the body of Christ, and we are asked to diligently preserve that unity. We can’t make it, and in the final analysis we can’t break it either. God is building his temple and each stone in it will fit together and be assembled on the other side of the veil without the sound of a hammer. All the shaping is done in the quarry, a la Solomon’s temple. In the meantime, the Lord knows those that are his.
How can we find, share, learn from, love and serve our brothers in Christ then? I really like this explanation, written by a missionary some years back and edited and compiled by Keith A. Price, and reproduced on Ken Allen’s eclectic website:
These principles are based on many years of inter-denominational fellowship and are conclusions I have reached after making many mistakes and after having had considerable discussion with scores of Christian leaders. I am particularly indebted to the correspondence of Anthony Norris Groves – a dentist-missionary to Baghdad in the 1830s – who practised many of these principles. Although they have never before appeared in the form I now give, I have retained a number of the excellent expressions he used in his correspondence.
The basis of our fellowship is life in the Christ of the Scriptures rather than Light on the teaching of the Scriptures. Those who have part with Christ have part with us. Because our communion is one of life and love more than one of doctrine and opinion, we seek to show that the oneness in the life of God through Jesus Christ is a stronger bond than that of being one of us – whether organizationally or denominationally.
Because our fellowship is based on our common life in Christ, we do not reject anyone because of the organization or denomination with which he may be affiliated; nor would we hold him responsible for the conduct within that system, any more than we would a child for the conduct in the home of which he is merely a part.
We do not feel it desirable to withdraw from fellowship with any Christians except at the point where they may require us to do what our consciences will not permit, or restrain us from doing what our consciences require. Even then, we maintain our fellowship with them in any matter where we are not called upon to so compromise. This ensures that (inasfar as we understand the Scripture) we do not separate ourselves from them any further than they separate themselves from Christ.
We do not consider an act of fellowship to be indicative of total agreement; indeed, we sometimes find it a needed expression of love to submit to others in matters where we do not fully agree, rather than to prevent some greater good from being brought about. Our choice would be to bear with their wrong rather than separate ourselves from their good.
We believe it more scriptural to reflect a heart of love ready to find a covering for faults, than to constantly look for that with which we may disagree. We will then be known more by what we witness for than by what we witness against.
We feel it biblical never to pressure people to act in uniformity further than they feel in uniformity; we use our fellowship in the Spirit as an opportunity to discuss our differences and find this to be the most effective way of leading others – or being led by them – into the light of the Word.
While enjoying such a wide range of Christian fellowship, we would not force this liberty upon those who would feel otherwise minded. In such circumstances, we enjoy fellowship as far as they will permit, then pray that the Lord would lead them further into this true liberty of the common life in Christ.