Unity: How good, pleasant, and triumphant

A fresh look at Psalm 133:1.

Robert Sweezey, JD, is the president of Adventist Risk Management, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

How good and pleasant it is / when brothers live together in unity” (Ps. 133:1, NIV). That familiar and sage advice from the psalmist comes as God’s desire for all humankind, especially for Christians—and even more especially for Seventh-day Adventist Christians. God’s plan includes having a devotion to unity that permeates the multifaceted and intricate patterns that make up our lives—our church life, our leadership life, our work life, our family life, and most importantly, our innermost life where we meet our God at an intimate level.

As Seventh-day Adventists, we know that time is running out, rapidly. Satan knows this as well, and he increases the challenges faced by humankind as he tries to overwhelm and destroy all of God’s creation, particularly the Christian community. Satan hopes, thereby, to frustrate God’s plan for our redemption and our eternal life. In practical terms, this means Satan wages wars, spreads pandemic diseases, hurricanes, floods, and fires, and creates interpersonal strife of every kind. We are advantaged, though, because we are told that these things would come, and when they do come we know that God, whom we serve, is in complete control. We have the assurance that God, in His loving mercy, will give us direction on how to go through whatever trials Satan causes.

Additionally, God, in His infinite wisdom, has shown us that when Satan tries to upset the success of our individual and corporate lives, our survival lies in how well we embrace Christian unity. Ellen White stresses the need for unity in no uncertain terms: “Union brings strength; disunion, weakness. United with one another, working together in harmony for the salvation of [humankind], we shall indeed be ‘laborers together with God.’ Those who refuse to work in harmony greatly dishonor God.”1 We can’t help but be convinced of the advantages of unity as we read further the insight God gave His prophet. We can almost sense her solemn, yet loving concern for those who choose to be at cross-purposes with each other when she wrote that if they “could draw aside the curtain veiling the future and see the result of their disunion they would surely be led to repent.”2

Dangers of disunity

Satan tries to confuse the issue of unity by inducing Christians to equate unity with uniformity. It is not. Unity is the spirit of resolve that unites Christians—especially Adventist Christians—in a common commitment to act for the greater and community good of the church, to stand as one for God’s cause. A significant part of the world persists in self-seeking, grasping for power and money, and pursuing pleasure solely for gratifications in their own narrow sphere. When Christians show disunity, we provide vehicles to increase Satan’s power and further his plans because we no longer demonstrate a solid united force for good. All too frequently, our disunity leads to a loss of goodwill and translates into money in the world’s coffers—money that could be used to help further God’s cause.

Ellen White clearly states that “he [Satan] will war against them [the people of God], and seek to divide and scatter them, that they may grow weak and be overthrown. The people of God should move understandingly, and should be united in their efforts.”3 Further, “I saw that God’s people should act wisely and leave nothing undone on their part to place the business of the church in a secure state.”4 The obvious conclusion? That the secure state of the church’s business is achieved when its leaders are united in that purpose.

As with any winning team, we gain strength from each other’s diligence and focus on the united good. Individuals who forget or disregard the team, only weaken the team—no matter how brilliant the move or personally beneficial. Hear the firm, yet still loving warning, “One professed Christian who moves unadvisedly does much harm to the cause of present truth.”5 The team wins—not the individual.

A case might be made that individual, independent action obtains better results; that we waste the time spent in gaining consensus. But find out where God stands, “These devoted souls consider it a virtue to boast of their freedom to think and act independently. They will not take any man’s say-so. They are amendable to no man. I was shown that it is Satan’s special work to lead men to feel that it is God’s order for them to strike out for themselves and choose their own course independent of the brethren.”6

Do we get it? Persuading Christians to choose an independent path is Satan’s “special work.” Such a course compromises our ability to “place the business of the church in a secure state.”7

Moreover, the essential harm done when we lack unity is ultimately to our individual selves—to our spiritual lives. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross testifies to us that God has a personal concern for each one of us as His children. Jesus’ life is inextricably tied to His family on earth. His plan and purpose for us includes having a trusting and loving relationship with Him—that we grow in grace and in His nurture. The twin component to that loving relationship with Jesus comprises a loving state of unity among ourselves. When we have that unity, we become avenues through which God will work for His children and His church.

Unity and the church’s advance

The Seventh-day Adventist Church, since its organization, has created financial mechanisms that demonstrate those Christian principles of unity, selflessness, and preparation for the final hours of this earth’s history. Our history is rich with the tradition of selfless support. From the returning of tithe to the giving of generous mission offerings, we have sustained the work of God beyond our local church and conference. Further, we have established revolving funds to help those entities whose funds are scarce and where “worldly” resources will not take the risk of assisting or would seek to make a profit. Loans to sister organizations from these revolving funds have saved those organizations from suffering for lack of capital. We have created an insurance company to insure the church, pooling capital together so that funds are available for designated disasters. When disaster strikes in any part of the world, we give of our money, time, and skills to rebuild churches, schools, and generally aid stricken people. These are all examples of Seventh-day Adventist Church unity.

Seventh-day Adventist Church unity equates with unity in spiritual growth, in belief, in relationships, and in mission. To that end, we are to be sympathetic of each other’s challenges, have confidence in each other’s abilities, and work for each other’s well-being. The triumph of our God-given mission—from the local congregation, to the local conference, to the union conference, to the division—results because we refuse to stray from God’s plan of unity; that we stand united as one with one purpose. In so doing, we will prove the wisdom of God, for indeed, it is good and pleasant for brothers to live together in unity. In fact, it is the only viable way.

1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View,
CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), 8:240.

2 Ibid.

3 White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, CA:
Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), 1:210.

4 Ibid., 211.

5 Ibid., 212.

6 White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers
(Mountain View, CA: Pacifi c Press Pub. Assn., 1962), 29.

7 White, Testimonies for the Church, 1:211.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus
Robert Sweezey, JD, is the president of Adventist Risk Management, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

April 2009

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Keeping PKs in the church

What is the greatest predictor of whether or not pastors' kids will remain in the church when they become adults?

The team

Working together has practical benefits and spiritual implications.

Longing for an ordinary wife's life?

Whether the pastor ministers in a large church or a small district, every pastoral family will find that job expectations cross and blur regularly into the lines of home and family.

The biblical role of the pastor

What does the pastor do? Is there a biblical job description? The author shares five principles based on the ministry of Jesus.

When you move to a new district: Pointers to a positive ministry

An experienced minister shares solid counsel on some of the first steps to take in assuming a pastoral assignment.

Preaching through a storm: When crisis strikes the pulpit preacher

Having been in ministry for more than 25 years, I have had my share of hospital visits. The majority of these visits was simply to provide a word of encouragement to a parishioner who was in for a brief stay. But then there have been the other times that brought tears not only to my eyes but also to my soul. You know the ones where the physician comes to share the prognosis with the family, and it isn't good news. These are the moments that leave you feeling completely helpless and at a loss for words-in spite of what you may have learned in pastoral ministry class. I have discovered that during these times, the most effective form of ministry that a pastor can render is simply the ministry of presence. Although visiting the sick and the suffering becomes, in most cases, trying at best, years spent in ministry have taught me to handle it with a certain degree of professionalism and grace.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - RevivalandReformation 300x250

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - SermonView - WideSkyscraper (160x600)