When my father was close to death, every word counted. He met with his six children one by one to speak life into us. I’ll never forget his words to me. Relatives came, and those who needed an admonition got it. Even the maid dusting his room was challenged to live for eternity.
Last words can be monumental. So what did Jesus say just before going to the cross? He prayed that the family might be one just as He and the Father were, “so that the world may know that you sent me” (John 17:20-23). He said it twice for emphasis. If Jesus had unity on his mind, should it be on ours as well?
WHAT DOES UNITY LOOK LIKE?
Paul used the human body to talk about unity: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (I Cor. 12:12). The body does not compete with itself. Like a football team working together under one coach, it operates in unity. Like a well-trained symphony orchestra, each person or part functions in harmony under one conductor. Unity is deeply satisfying.
HOW IS UNITY CREATED?
“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” We’ve been singing that song since 1955. How’s it working? Wars have escalated. Unity comes by way of the cross: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:12).
We can’t make it–but we are called to maintain it: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). Humility is needed to walk in unity.
SO HOW DO WE MAINTAIN UNITY?
UNITY REQUIRES DIVERSITY. Diversity is essential for harmony, but it must be orchestrated by heaven, not by personal desire. Diversity without direction is disaster. The world wants diversity, but on its terms, and it creates terrible disharmony. “There are varieties of activities (diversity), but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (unity). To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Cor. 12:6,7). Imagine an orchestra without a director, each playing the composition his own way without a score. Call it diversity.
UNITY IS NOT UNIFORMITY, which is leveraged from top-down leadership to restrict personal freedom. In music it is unison–one note. Gets boring after a while. Harmony is more satisfying to the soul. Uniformity is an abusive leader wanting everyone to think and act like him.
DISUNITY IS ADDRESSED. “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). We must desire unity so much that we address disunity whenever it appears. We show more concern for the whole than the individual parts. Disunity grows when it is either ignored or called diversity and celebrated. Disharmony ruins the whole song, and the world says, “I don’t know what you’ve got, but I hope I don’t catch it.” (More to come).