Ephes. 4:1-6 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,  being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
In the late 1800’s there were two deacons in a small Baptist church in Mayfield, KY. These two deacons didn’t get along and they always opposed each other in any decision related to the church. On one particular Sunday, one deacon put up a small wooden peg in the back wall so the preacher could hang up his hat. When the other deacon discovered the peg, he was outraged that he had not been consulted. People in the church took sides and eventually there was a spilt. To this day, they say you can still find the Anti-Peg Baptist Church in Mayfield, KY.
One of the worst things that can happen in a church is when God’s people begin to fight instead of working together. Yet it happens all the time. History is full of sad stories about Christians fighting among themselves. Let me share one that I recently read.
Tradition claims that Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher is built over the cave in which Christ is said to have been buried. In July 2002, the church became the scene of ugly fighting between the monks who run it. The conflict began when a Coptic monk sitting on the rooftop decided to move his chair into the shade. This took him into the part of the rooftop courtyard looked after by the Ethiopian monks.
It turns out that the Ethiopian and Coptic monks have been arguing over the rooftop of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for centuries. In 1752 the Ottoman Sultan issued an edict declaring which parts of the Church belong to each of six Christian groups: the Latins, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Copts, and Ethiopians. Despite the edict, conflict over the church remains.
The rooftop had been controlled by the Ethiopians, but they lost control to the Copts when hit by a disease epidemic in the 19th century. Then in 1970 the Ethiopians regained control when the Coptic monks were absent for a short period. They have been squatting there ever since, with at least one Ethiopian monk always remaining on the roof to assert their rights. In response a Coptic monk has been living on the roof also, to maintain the claim of the Copts.
This brings us to a Monday in July 2002, when the Coptic monk moved his chair into the shade. Harsh words led to pushes, then shoves, until an all out brawl ensued, including the throwing of chairs and iron bars. At the end of the fight 11 monks were injured, including one monk unconscious in hospital and another with a broken arm.
How tragic that a church which serves as a memorial to Christ is the scene for such bitter conflict among those who claim to be his followers. This is a far cry from Christ’s call to love one another, turn the other cheek, and his prayer that his followers might "be one".
When the church is divided it always produces tragic results. On the other hand, when the church is unified it unleashes a power that cannot be stopped. In the book of Ephesians, more than any of Paul’s letters, he calls the church to unity. Paul mentions the unity of the church 18 times in this letter. You see, unity is essential in the church because it brings glory to God and it reflects one of God’s key attributes. Moments before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed for the church that would be established after his death and resurrection. He didn’t pray for large buildings or church growth. He asked for only one thing: “I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” If we’re going to be the kind of people God intends, then we need to be unified.