The issue of Christian unity is really a question of spiritual maturity. Simply put: Christians who are unable to work together amidst their differences prove that they are spiritual immature. Unity and spiritual maturity go hand in hand.
Want proof? Check out these scriptures.
Conflict Stunts Spiritual Growth
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? I Corinthians 4:1-4
Paul clearly says that as long as there is division in the Body, the Body cannot grow. Discord is not only a sign of spiritual immaturity; it perpetuates the state of immaturity. The Body of Christ cannot grow while it remains divided.
Division affects the spiritual climate of campuses. Listen to what James says.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deedsdone in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:13-16
When students believe that their ministry is better than the others, when ministries compare themselves with others, and when there is competition for students, “there you will find disorder and every evil practice.”
Unity is Maturity
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
Paul clearly says this is the goal: that the Body be built up UNTIL we reach unity and thus become mature, revealing the fullness of Christ. Unity is maturity. The purpose of our gifts and differences (which the text says Jesus Himself appoints) is the glory of God, to reveal all the fullness of God.
When campus ministries learn to work together as one Body they become more and more mature, revealing the glory of God on campus.
Maturity and Fruit of the Spirit
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord,one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:2-6
Paul clearly says that unity is established in relationships. It’s about how we treat one another. Namely, we need humility. We also need gentleness, patience, and forbearance for one another.
These character traits are very similar to the fruit of the Spirit Paul describes in Galatians.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22,23
If believers are truly maturing in their faith, these fruits will be evident. These are the fruits that allow marriages and families to thrive, friendships and evangelism to grow, and churches and ministry leaders to work together.
Spiritually maturing believers learn how to be in relationship with one another and to work together because as they grow, these fruits of the Spirit are made more an more evident. Spiritual immature Christians are simply unable to do so.
When you see division, you’re seeing spiritual immaturity at its finest.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.