Have you ever seen a bundle of twigs tied together? What impression did you have of this? Did you ever try to break something like this? What was the result? You wouldn’t be able to break them, because they seemed to have the strength of an entire tree trunk. But if you would disconnect and separate them from each other, it would simple to break each one individually! Think
of this in connection to a marriage, a family, or the church. Unity is strength, but division leads to weakness and, ultimately, ruin!
Today, marriage and the family are more and more at risk. And the church, the main focus of Satan’s attacks, is also going to be severely tested and tried. To prevent its destruction, the apostle Paul stressed the importance of harmony and unity in the above two areas of life: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” Ephesians 5:31-33.
When a marriage disintegrates and the spouses, who previously loved and supported each other, become estranged, our hearts bleed and our tongues become silent. When families break apart, our thoughts go out especially to the children who suffer so much because of the division of their parents. One would like to help both the husband and the wife, but in such a case human help is very limited. And, yes, most of these catastrophes could be avoided if practical counsel would be received and carried out.
“Let fathers and mothers make a solemn promise to God, whom they profess to love and obey, that by His grace they will not disagree between themselves, but will in their own life and temper manifest the spirit that they wish their children to cherish….
“The grace of Christ, and this alone, can make this institution what God designed it should be–an agent for the blessing and uplifting of humanity. And thus the families of earth, in their unity and peace and love, may represent the family of heaven….
“Parents should be careful not to allow the spirit of dissension to creep into the home; for this is one of Satan’s agents to make his impression on the character. If parents will strive for unity in the home by inculcating the principles that governed the life of Christ, dissension will be driven out, and unity and love will abide there. Parents and children will partake of the gift of the Holy Spirit….
“Although trials may arise in the married life, the husband and the wife are to keep their souls in the love of God. The father should look upon the mother of his children as one deserving of all kindness, tenderness, and sympathy.” –The Adventist Home, pp. 178, 100, 179.
No less painful is a divided church, where members are in conflict with each other. Sometimes the problems are because of temperament or habits. In other cases, there are long-standing disagreements because of differences in education, customs, or conflicting convictions. Disagreements may not only appear in common conversation but also spill over into church meetings or
even worship services. Every person should remember that each one has a duty–a very solemn one responsibility–to maintain harmony and unity in the earthly family of God! Just as “In the government of children there must never be a difference of opinion between the parents” (Bible Echo, March 9, 1903), so in the church the apostle Paul urged all members to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
The writings of the Spirit of prophecy state: “Divisions in the church dishonor the religion of Christ before the world and give occasion to the enemies of truth to justify their course…. What are we doing to preserve unity in the bonds of peace?” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 239.
How can unity become a reality in the church? How can wounds be healed and distances be narrowed? Who will be the first to build bridges of communication so the rich harmony and power existing in the early church may be seen in the church today? The inspired message is: “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any
bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:1-5.
And the following counsel speaks to every heart and mind: “By the influence of the Spirit, the most discordant may be brought into harmony. Unselfishness is to bind God’s people together with firm, tender bonds. There is a vast power in the church when the energies of the members are under the control of the Spirit, gathering good from every source, educating, training, and disciplining self. Thus is presented to God a powerful organization, through which He can work for the conversion of sinners. Thus heaven and earth are connected, and all divine agencies
cooperate with human instrumentalities.” – My Life Today, p. 39.
“It is not the opposition of the world that we have to fear; but it is the elements that work among ourselves that have hindered the message. The efficiency of the movements for extending the truth depends upon the harmonious action of those who profess to believe it. Love and confidence constitute a moral force that would have united our churches, and insured harmony of action; but coldness and distrust have brought disunion that has shorn us of our strength.” –General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 28, 1893.
“If God’s professed people would receive the light as it shines upon them from His word, they would reach that unity for which Christ prayed, that which the apostle describes, ‘the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ ‘There is,’ he says, ‘one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’ Ephesians 4:3-5.” –The Great Controversy, p. 379.
With this goal before us, Sabbath, December 10, will be a day of fasting and prayer. Please make it a special day of meeting and blessing. Following the last reading, the special offering for the Week of Prayer will be gathered. These offerings will be used for the General Conference’s missionary projects. Dear brothers and sisters all over the world, the coming of Jesus is drawing nearer and nearer. Every day the signs of the times are becoming clearer and more impressive. It is time to awake and re-consecrate all we have to Him who has given His life for us.
This Week of Prayer is the time to rededicate ourselves completely to His service, so that “in all holy conversation and godliness” we may be “diligent and … be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” 2 Peter 3:11, 14.
In the past year, the Lord granted His people many rich blessings; every day His grace was poured upon out in mercy. Are we willing to do something for Him in the coming year? Let each individual child of God be an instrument of unity in his or her own marriage (if married), in the family, and in the church. As we share these readings at the year’s end, may the power of heaven be permitted to move so mightily among us that when the Lord comes He will find us of one heart and spirit, ready to be welcomed into His kingdom of peace and harmony.
–The brothers and sisters of the General Conference