Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?: The Unity of the Body

Several years ago, a man named Rodney King was arrested during the L.A. riots.  He asked a memorable question:  “Why can’t we all just get along?” While I doubt Mr. King ever thought about his question being asked in a religious setting, the question is a good question – even for those in the church, the body of Christ.  Biblically speaking, “getting along” simply means to solve (or prevent) problems God’s way, for His glory, for the good of His people, and in an attempt to reach out to those around us who are not part of the body of Christ because they don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Of all the people in the world who ought to be able to ‘get along,’ it ought to be those who claim to know the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.  However, many times God’s people can’t seem to ‘get along’ very well no matter the person they are dealing with or the situation. Sometimes the inability to ‘get along’ shows up on a personal level, a small group level, or even a corporate level where churches and/or various religious organizations don’t resolve problems or communicate their differences in a loving manner (Ephesians 4:15 tells us to ‘speak the truth in love’).  In cases where biblical principles are not followed, the Holy Spirit is quenched and the glory of God is dragged through the slim of sinful anger and bitterness which leads to disunity among the body.  In the end, the problems are not resolved, and the stage is set for yet another ‘explosion’ inconsistent with God’s character and His revealed Word and further hinders the overall effectiveness of the church!

A Frequent Subject in the Scriptures

The issue of getting along or being unified is not a new subject for the church or even the O.T. saints! For example, the Psalmist David wrote in the Psalms 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” When he penned these words, maybe he was thinking about his relationship with Saul, or possibly the relationship between Absalom and Amnon (David’s sons).  Whatever the relationship, the Holy Spirit inspired David to address the issue of the pleasantness of unity.

Paul addressed this problem in the N.T. to the church at Corinth: “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances”  (2 Corinthians 12:20).  Even with the inspired Word of God and 6,000 years of history, we still don’t get the fact that God wants to be glorified by the way we ‘get along’ with each other – to actually portray the unity of the Godhead to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and evangelistically, to those who are looking for answers and have never met the Prince of Peace!

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? To answer the question, we need to go back to Genesis.  In Genesis 1 and 2, the unity of the Godhead is revealed in the first verse of the Bible.  The plural form of the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, begins in Genesis 1:1 and is clarified even more in Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . .” Part of learning to ‘get along’ begins with understanding that God models unity in the Trinity.  One of the characteristics of being an image bearer is that we are communicative beings. Mankind has the innate ability to build relationships that give the right opinion of God, our Creator.  In fact, before Genesis 3, there was unity between Adam and Eve similar to the unity in the Trinity, and man was getting along fine with God.  But then came Genesis 3 and the answer to the question, Why can’t we all just get along?” The answer is,…

The Curse of Sin

1) Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves to cover or hide their guilt. This was man’s first attempt at trying to ‘get along’ with God after the fall. But it didn’t work, nor will it ever work.  Covering one’s sin is NOT the way to ‘get along.’ Sin must be dealt with according to God’s Word which involves humility and a willingness to be honest about one’s true spiritual condition.  A failure to admit you are wrong or that you don’t have all the answers (you’re not perfect) will not help you to ‘get along’ with others.

2) Secondly, they ran and hid in the bushes (not wanting to resolve the problem).  In order to ‘get along’, guilty parties need to quit the ‘bush-living’ and confront the problem in a biblical, loving, and Christ-honoring way.  Too many believers are living in the bushes instead of ‘walking in the Light’ (1 John 1:5-10).  The light from God’s Word exposes our sin and instructs us on how to make it right and how to keep it right.  At times when believers ought to allow the Sword of the Spirit to instruct them, they push God’s Word aside and rely on human reasoning.  Then the problems escalate and eventually bring destruction not only to the relationships in which that person is involved, but to the person himself, to others, and eventually to the cause of Christ!

3) When confronted by God, Adam made an excuse to justify what they had done.  Since the Genesis 3 excuse of ‘I was afraid,’ the use of fear remains a frequent excuse for people failing to solve problems with God and others.  Some don’t ‘get along’ with others because they are afraid of how the other person will respond when confronted about a specific sin or the way that person handled a particular situation.  1 John 4:18 tells us that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…” If you love the Lord and you love people, you’ll do your best to ‘get along’ with them.  Solomon warned us in Proverbs 29:25 “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.”

4) Realizing the previous attempts at avoiding the problem were not working, the final sin-cursed rationale squeaks out: Blame shifting! Adam’s response to God’s question, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”, communicated Adam’s unwillingness to admit his failure and take personal responsibility for his actions.  Instead, he replied in Genesis 3:12, The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” This is not first and foremost blaming Eve!  Adam blamed the source from which he received the woman.  In essence, he blamed God!  We think that problems are not our fault – it’s the unreasonable God who made us and gave us that boss, co-worker, church member, staff member, and choir member, etc.  Is that really the problem?  I think we all know the answer to that question.

The Results of the Curse

What was the result of this sin and rebellion? Adam wanted to exclude himself from the presence of God (think about how illogical that was!).  Eve wanted to usurp Adam’s authority.  Man’s ability to ‘get along’ with creation diminished as he now worked by the sweat of his brow!  In Genesis 4, Cain committed murder!  Instead of looking for ways to solve problems, we think that covering the problem, running from it, making excuses, or blame shifting will solve it all – and in some cases, murdering the person with whom we can’t seem to ‘get along.’ It’s true, the curse of sin has a very adverse affect on man’s ability to think and reason.  From Genesis 3, history displays man’s inability to ‘get along’ with each other apart from a growing relationship with God and a work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that produces the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Getting it Right

Remember this:  Disharmony or disunity is ultimately a rejection of God’s authority.  It has its roots in an attempt to displace the plan of God and authority of God in order to get what an individual or a group of individuals really want.  Not getting along the way God’s Word describes is a nice way of saying, “I don’t like the way God set this up! It has to be my way!” This obviously would not include appropriate times for disharmony or disunity on major theological issues – a person can never reconcile a works-based religion with salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  But even in those cases, speaking the truth in love to those with whom you differ can make a great impact on those individuals and especially those watching the ‘debate.’

Understanding authority and how we’re to respond is central to our ability to ‘get along’ with others.  In addition, the element of man’s pride has to be considered.  Solomon wrote in Proverbs 13:10 “By pride comes nothing but strife . . .” When people can’t ‘get along,’ at the heart of the issue is PRIDE.  The pride of man motivates the rejection of authority (God’s authority, parental authority, pastoral or church authority, etc.).  Pride says, “It’s all about me” instead of the words set to music in the song, Heart of Worship, “It’s all about you, Jesus!” Pride says, ‘It’s all about me; I will do things my way!”

Satan attacks our theology by attacking our relationships.  By doing so, he takes away from the glory of God and undermines the Gospel message.  Who wants to be part of a body that bite and devour one another?  If we want to learn to ‘get along’ with others, we have to humble ourselves (1 Peter 5:5) and grow in grace.  More emphasis on and obedience to the greatest commandments would help: “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’.” (Matthew 22:37-39).