by haRold Smith
from Jerusalem, Israel
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, For brethren to dwell together in unity!
"It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.
"It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing ï¿½ Life forevermore." Psalm 133
What does it mean to be in unity - to be in "one accord"? And what prevents us from achieving it today? After all, it is the one commonality that runs through scripture when describing the evidence of the manifestation of the Ruach haKodesh (the Holy Spirit) in power among the early church.
A unique Greek word, 'accord', used 10 of its 12 occurrences in the Book of Acts, helps us understand the uniqueness of the early Christian community. 'Homothumadon' is a compound of two words meaning to "rush along" and "in unison" and is defined as 'with one mind and with one passion'. The image is almost musical - a number of notes are sounded which, while different, harmonize in pitch and tone.
The 'with one mind' definition is not necessarily a similarity of belief. In Ephesians 4:3 (click on hightlighted reference for scripture) we are encouraged to 'keep (maintain) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' UNTIL "ï¿½we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Godï¿½" (Ephesians 4:13). Verse 3 is written in past tense meaning the Unity of the Spirit has ALREADY been placed among us and is to be kept, upheld and tended to so as to not let it slip away. These early believers were determined to do just that. They understood that the only unity they had that tied them together was the recent Resurrection of Yeshua they had witnessed a mere 50 days prior to Pentecost and exhibited a passion to not let their individual differences over doctrine divide them and diminish the Power that was clearly evident in their lives.
It was because of the passion they had to not allow their differences to come between them that the Power of Ruach haKodesh was so prevalent. On the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), verse 2 says because they were of 'one accord', about 'three thousand souls were added to them' that day (verse 41) and a few days later, another five thousand were added (Acts 4:4) - and this was in a time when they only counted the men. Again in (Acts 5), verse 12 shows as a result of them being in 'one accord' that when those who were sick and possessed of the devil were simply brought to the city, they 'were all healed' (verse 16).
In the Life of Yeshua, the benchmark by which our lives are to be measured, it is an interesting observation that nowhere in scripture is it recorded that Yeshua ever chastened anyone to stop doing any of the things they felt brought them into a closer relationship with the Father. The closest He ever came to approaching that subject was when He pointed to a group of Pharisees and told some followers nearby to "do what they say but don't do what they do", referring to their hypocrisy of espousing the ritual but not practicing what they were preaching (Matthew 23:1-3). If He was not concerned enough to address those differences, then why should we be among ourselves? And there were differences among those early believers.
In Acts 15, there are a couple of interesting verses that illustrate how these folks maintained the unity of the Spirit in spite of the doctrinal differences that were among them. Beginning with verse 5, we see that among those coming to hear Paul and Barnabas' accounting of the conversion of the Gentiles, the issue of whether to burden the new converts with circumcision was actually brought up by a 'sect of the Pharisees who believed'. Now, that these believers were invited to sit at this council is extraordinary in and of itself. That their objection was considered in the weight it was measured was even more extraordinary. And, that those who raised the objection elected to remain in 'one accord' when the decision fell away from where they were positioned, is the stature by which we should all seek to be found (verse 25).
"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." 1John 3:14-15
Upon reading this passage, most of us would say, "Well, that's not speaking to me - I don't hate anybody." It would serve us all well to allow the Lord to examine our heart in this matter in the light of what this verse actually means:
To detest, despise, or disparage; TO SEPARATE FROM,
an aversion - usually deriving from fear.
To hate, as to love, is a choice of our free will exemplified by our actions. When we willfully separate ourselves from a brother in Christ, for whatever the reason (save for flagrant sin), we are fulfilling the definition of what it means to hate and, according to the scripture above, we have no Life in us. We separate ourselves from our brethren because we fear what they are saying and thinking, being different from our thoughts and beliefs, will somehow contaminate us or cause us to do something we know is false. The Truth is that when we, as a Body, carry the brilliance of Who He Is within us - darkness cannot stand in the presence of that brilliance. The opening passage of Acts 5 (the same chapter where it says those in need just came to the city and they were all healed, v.16) describes the result of Ananias and Sapphira bringing darkness into the midst of the believers there. God will deal with the darkness - we don't need to fear it.
Recently, I heard the testimony of a survivor of the holocaust in Nazi Germany during World War II. He said that to the captors in the Nazi Warsaw ghetto and in the concentration camp, it did not matter what stripe you were of - what religious sect you came from, what doctrines you believed in or rituals you practiced. In that place, he said, everyone was viewed as being alike. The Nazis considered everyone who was Jewish a cockroach and treated them all the same - something to be squashed. As a result, he said they didn't look upon each other as anything but Jewish - they became brothers and the depth of their faith was evidenced in the ways they treated one another. It is easy to only want to give grace to those who 'look like us'. As we increasingly begin to come into persecution, we are going to need one another.
The key to these passages is to walk in the Light as He demonstrated that walk. When we say, "I forgive youï¿½.but I won't have anything more to do with you," we are not walking in the same Light as our Lord exampled (Psalm 119:165). The example by which He walked, the way He taught us, was to forgive completely and continue to embrace us. We teach it to our children in song - "ï¿½cast into the sea, never to be remembered any more." Yeshua said to forgive a brother 70 x 7 - in a single day (Matthew 18:22). That means to forgive AND FORGET for that is the way He forgave, and forgives, us. It also means to not wait on the brother, but for us to take the initiative (Matthew 5:23-24, Hebrews 13:16).
Are there those who will abuse the transparency we strive to walk in? Absolutely - the scriptures tell us there will be, so as to prove those who ARE true (1Corinthians 11:19, 1Corinthians 4:5). They are not to be my concern. They will be dealt with by the Lord in His own time and in His own way. I am to concern myself with my own heart and how I relate to others who call upon His Name.
Are there those who will take advantage of our humility toward them? Absolutely - but we are called to serve them that they might be set free from their bondage. Who did Jesus serve but the unlovely, the ungrateful, the unappreciative and those who would scorn and mock Him. We are called to do the same (Galatians 5:10-15). They are still a part of the Body of Christ and need the Light within us as much, if not more, as we need theirs.
Is it painful? You better believe it - probably some of the most intense agony you will ever suffer. But, it is in the embracing of that pain, not the avoidance of it, that we are set free (1Peter 2:19-24). Those stripes by which we are healed are the stripes that were laid upon His Body - us.
When we choose to separate ourselves from another brother in the Lord because of ANYTHING (save for flagrant sin) we are walking in darkness and are promoting division among believers. That division hinders the work of the Lord. The Power that was demonstrated among those believers recorded in Acts 5:16 was a direct result of them understanding what it meant to be in one accord. If we are to walk in that same Power today, if we are to witness the awesomeness of the Power of God manifested in the earth in these last days, then we, the Body of Christ, must also CHOOSE to come into one accord, CHOOSE to lay aside the doctrines that divide us and CHOOSE to recognize, in practice, that there is but one Body and one Spirit and one Lord of us all. He is waiting on us, His Body, to make those choices.
The question then becomes - do we want the Life among us as commanded by the Lord in Psalm 133 above? Do we want that Life of Power enough to CHOOSE to come into One Accord? Or not?
|"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." John 13:35 & 1John 3:16|