"Now when you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devises." ( II Cor 2:10-11, NKJV)
Witnessing for Jesus Christ tends to cause non-believers to ask questions such as this: "If what you are saying is true, then why are Christians divided into so many groups"? Many thoughtful Christians have asked themselves what they could do to counter such an impression. Some Protestants seek common ground with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. While there is much to be gained spiritually from such a quest, in the end, I do not believe such a dialogue among these three groups will bear the fruit of a truly unified Church.
What can individual disciples of Jesus do to maintain unity within the body of Christ? The answer: Practice forgiveness and encourage others to do the same.
Of all the sermons preached in Churches regarding the Church at Corinth (the Church Paul was addressing in the quote above), the majority of them I am sure focused upon Paul's denunciation of that Church's sin. Yet we are apt to forget that Paul had a redemptive purpose in mind. An individual in the Corinthian Church had to undergo Church discipline, but to the end that he would experience forgiveness from God and the Church. "...deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor. 5:5, NKJV) But the individual was not Paul's only concern. The entire Corinthian Church had a stake in this matter. Satan wanted enmity to reign among the Corinthian believers. Were Satan to succeed in this matter, the Corinthian Church would become powerless, produce angry, powerless people and then wither away. Paul wanted members of that Church to practice forgiveness as a first defense against the strategies of the enemy. Today's disciples too are to practice forgiveness for the sake of unity. This weapon in the end will prove more powerful than theological understanding among different Churches or any ecclesiastical unity. When the world sees the Church practicing true repentance and forgiveness, then the world will see all the unity it needs to see.