“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!…It is like precious oil poured on the head,…For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Psalm 133 (NIV)
There can be no revival without godly unity. Such unity makes God’s people value each other and see each other’s worth as people redeemed by the precious blood of Christ Jesus, and as family members of God’s household. This expresses itself in a unity of prayer and purpose that seeks to exalt the Lord. It is also committed primarily to God’s glory.
There is, in the Bible, what we may describe as an expression of divine intention: “Let Us.” We see this first in Gen. 1:26: Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (NIV). No dissenting voice in the Godhead is recorded, for there has never been.
Further on, in the created world, we read in Gen. 2:19: We read that whatever man called every living thing, that was its name. Again, no dissension. God didn’t overrule man, because man mirrored God’s thoughts. How beautiful! What a tragic loss of this divine-human harmony the Fall brought, and how sadly remote that is now! If we probe deeply into many admonitions and campaigns for unity, we will find out before long that there are carefully concealed ulterior motives, or even overt intentions that are man-centered rather than a focus on God’s glory and purposes.
The builders of the Tower of Babel soon expressed their intention in this way [note their “Let us”], “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly …Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower …and let us make a name for ourselves…(Gen. 11:3-4, ESV).
The language of their intention speaks volumes about their desire for independence from God (see Gen. 9:1,7) Since their project was contrary to God’s mandate, we see a further expression of the more powerful “Let Us” in vv7-8: “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, …So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.”
Their unity was against God’s purpose. The unity that the Psalmist speaks about in Psalm 133 is unity among God’s covenant people, focused on God’s purpose.
The Christian faith celebrates the unity of God’s people in many ways (see John 17:21, Eph. 4:4-6). When, as in the Corinthian Church, we allow self-centredness to interfere with this precious unity, there cannot be revival. When narrow interests substitute the overall good of the people of God, the Spirit cannot bless such pretensions of unity which are doomed to be short lived, having no foundation in the love of Christ, whom the Holy Spirit always seeks to glorify. In the Early Church God’s clear response to the deception by Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) and the marginalization of some widows (Acts 6), is instructive.
In preparing the way of the Lord for revival, we must deal with the unedifying divisions that have tried to rebuild walls that Christ has broken, where hurtful differences have been introduced into the unity that Christ wants His people to celebrate. We will remain powerless otherwise.
The Most Rev’d Emmanuel Egbunu is the Bishop of Lokoja, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)