1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
The Divine Unity
The first time I heard this song, I felt the Lord impress upon me the fact that what we, the Church, need today may not be something new. We may need something as old as God himself.
It has become fashionable to go after the new thing. And this fad has been reigning large in the contemporary church strategy circles. There is nothing wrong with exploring the opportunities and options we have available to us. It is both wise and prudent to evaluate tactics in the work of Gospel ministry. What can get us distracted, however, is thinking the “new thing” is the right thing no matter what.
In a similar way, when we consider the mystery of the Godhead, how God exists within God’s own being, we are challenged to consider what we think we know about God. Everything God is helps us to understand how things should be in the world and in our lives. It may not always be easy to see or discern, but it is possible. We just have to be willing to take the time to spend with God. To hear what he is saying. To obey what God is commanding us to do.
The unity of the Godhead is a mystery. Of that there is no doubt. However, Jesus tells us that his desire for his followers is that we would experience the same kind of unity as he has with the Father (John 10:30, cf. John 12-20-23).
When this unity is achieved, then most, if not all, of the problems and issues facing the Church, and by extension the world, can be addressed. It is the unity of the Church that provides the proper framework for the world’s reconciliation to God.
And just to be clear, by “achieved” I don’t mean perfectly. When we are actually working toward the kind of unity Jesus described, and making steady progress towards it, then we will be on the path toward actually seeing the fruit the unity we seek.
The work of Gospel-centered unity cannot be achieved through the mechanisms of the world. The temptation to try can be quite enticing. But any and every attempt to circumvent the Gospel path will inevitably end in ruin.
It is the unity of the Church that provides the proper framework for the world’s reconciliation to God.Tweet
I believe the primary obstacle many of us face is understanding the nature of the unity Jesus sought is we have internalized the perspective of immediacy as evidence of God’s activity in the world. So when there is a delay between request and response we question God’s faithfulness to come through.
The Unity Described
There are several passages in the Apostle John’s gospel that are helpful here. We find clarity of what this unity looks like as Jesus’s words are recorded in several places.
42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.John 8:42 ESV
And again in chapter 12 we see Jesus say,
49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”JOhn 12:49-50 ESV
And again in the chapter 15:
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.John 15:26 ESV
What I find curious about what Jesus is saying is that there is a clear unity of mission within the Godhead. The Father sends the Son, the Son speaks what the Father commands, and the Holy Spirit points back to the words and work of Jesus.
There is not only a harmony of purpose, but there is a clarity of assignment. Each divine person working together, accomplishing their specific assignment as determined within the council of their own being.
Let’s not pretend to understand how this was all decided. What we know, through a gift of revelation, is that this happened.
This is not only an example of unity, it is our model for working toward the kind of unity that will change the course of those who’s lives will intersect with ours. And who, by the grace of God, will come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
True Unity is Possible
The simplicity of the Psalm upon which this song is based points to the blessing that shall cover all of life when God-glorifying unity is achieved. This blessing is grounded in the commitment of God’s people to live together in unity.
It can be difficult to envision a world with this level of commitment. In particular when we see the internal strifes and challenges in the Church. However, the problem is not whether this unity is possible. The question we have to answer is are we willing to seek the unity God has promised according to God’s plan.
If we are not willing to follow the way we should not be surprised when the unity doesn’t materialize.
There is not a single instance I can think of in the Bible where someone decided to substitute their own wisdom for God’s where the events turned out well. Every single time we choose to deviate from God’s plan, we risk everything we desire to see.
This is why when we work for unity, we have to make sure to guard against any influence, any system, any methodology, any metric, or any alliance that does not harmonize with the character of God.
Yes, this means we may have to slow down. And yes, it may mean that we will have to be more cautious with how we proceed. But in the end, working in congruency with God and his purposes should be more important than expediency.