David writes in Psalm 139:14 – “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Is it not implied in our wonderfully-made-ness that we are therefore not clones of each other, but unique and special? And if we are unique and special (and yes, you are!), then does it not also follow that we will not always see things the same way. We are wonderfully different, and fearfully designed by God with a blueprint that is unlike anyone else’s. If you’re with me so far, then that can’t mean whenever we disagree we are not walking in unity, but simply expressing our different-ness. So how does this work?
Unity is Deeper than Disagreement
I wish I knew more of the back story with Paul and Barnabas disagreeing over including John Mark on their missionary trip (Acts 15:36-41). It appears that Barnabas saw potential in John Mark and was willing to take a chance on him (like he had on Saul of Tarsus), but Paul thought this was a really bad idea. Apparently, John Mark had bailed out on them previously in the midst of ministry labors. Paul and Barnabas didn’t see eye to eye on their observations about John Mark, nor on a decision to include him in their ministry team. So they lovingly agreed to go different ways with different teams. Was this disunity? I don’t think so. Paul and Barnabas get to be different and have different opinions about people and problems. What we do know is that they were both committed to the mission of the Gospel and as a result of this disagreement, God multiplied the number of workers sent out for the building up of the churches. They remained steadfast and unified on the mission even as they disagreed on some of the details, because unity runs deeper than human differences and even disagreements.
We should always be quick to listen and slow to speak, inviting the observations of other trusted friends and counselors, but uniformity and blind allegiance is not what unity is about. Unity is about the love of Jesus that has been poured out on needy sinners. Holding fast to that will preserve the unity even in the face of humble, loving disagreement.
- Mark Spansel