Most of us wouldn’t find much beauty in a pile of sticks, but one father used sticks to create a beautiful illustration of unity. One day, the father caught his two sons fighting. He called them into the house, gave his oldest son a small stick, and asked him to snap it. The young man snapped the stick with ease. Then the father handed him two sticks together and asked him to snap them. Again he easily snapped the sticks. Then the son was given three, four, five, and six sticks, respectively. When he had six sticks, it took everything he had to snap them. Finally, he met his match with seven sticks. He admitted he couldn’t break them.

The wise father used the sticks to illustrate that “a house divided cannot stand.” He explained that if we fight against each another, then we are not standing together and we can be defeated one by one; but if we stand together, our united strength will make it impossible for our enemies to break us.

This is good wisdom for the Church to follow. Today we have so much infighting going on between denominations, between churches, and even between the people inside our churches that our enemies are able to snap us like a dead twig. The atheists and humanists see our discord as entertainment. They don’t have to divide and conquer because we’re already divided. As a result, they have used their godless culture to lure record numbers of teenagers away from our churches. They have publicly attacked the foundation of our very existence, God’s Word, in public schools and universities; but we’ve been too busy fighting each other to realize what they’re doing. A house divided cannot stand.

Show me a beautiful church, and I’ll show you a church that has unity. The church’s beauty lies in the spirit of its people. A unified church is characterized by genuine love between its members (not “love” which compromises and overlooks sin, but love which is centered on the truth). This church is united, and it will stand. It can concentrate on the battle with its enemies because it is not distracted.

What are you doing to promote unity in your church? Do you join others in gossip against another church member, or do you put a stop to it? Do you encourage others who are doing well, or do you try to bring them down? The more unified your church is, the stronger it will be — and unity starts with you.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder