Unity is quite the rage in the political realm. On January 20, Ari Shapiro interviewed Mara Liason during the “All Things Considered” NPR radio program. During the dialogue, Mr. Shapiro stated President Biden emphasized a message of unity during his campaign and reiterated the theme during his inaugural address. Shapiro then asked, “Do you think that this message of healing and unity can lead to real change?” Liason responded, “Well, he certainly thinks so. And the challenges are daunting.”
The hurdles that must be cleared to achieve unity are high. The toughest may prove to be this, many people have no desire for unity, period. On January 9, Annie Liskey wrote an article in the Washington Postheadlined, “Biden, who ran on unity, now leads a party furious at GOP.” Bari Weiss, in her epic resignation letter from the New York Times, noted the demand for orthodoxy rather than discovery had become the rule. We have embraced rather than rejected tribalism. Our yearning to only hear, read, and tolerate opinions with which we agree, has emotionally charged our environment. We seldom engage those with whom we disagree in dialogue. We prefer demonizing them!
We believe the pursuit of unity is worth the effort. Genuine unity is the only way to defeat the hatred, mistrust, tribalism, racism, sexism, greed, and other evils ripping the world apart. However, we believe the source of unity is not found in politics, education, philanthropy, or any of our more noble causes. Nor will unity ever be achieved by silencing voices with which we disagree, no matter how objectionable we find their thoughts and beliefs.
We are convinced unity is only possible when individuals surrender their lives to the truth of Scripture, God’s grace offered in Jesus Christ, the regenerative power of God’s Holy Spirit, and the nurturing relationships found within the framework of believer’s together growing in God’s grace. Candidly, unity is difficult for those who share a public commitment to Scripture, Christ, and the sovereignty of God! Those calling themselves Christians, Christ followers, believers, or disciples, continue to struggle with unity. Defining “us” and “them” often results in angry words, broken relationships, emotional pain, and physical attack.
This is certainly not the heart of God, as reflected in Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17:20-23. How can fallen human beings find the unity for which Christ prayed and God intended? We believe the framework for real unity is found in Ephesians 4:1-6.
For unity to be possible, we must first believe God desires it and commit to achieve God’s goal! Paul’s mandate to the believers in Ephesus (“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”) is based upon there being one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God! We must not allow ourselves to be satisfied with division because it somehow coincides with our divided world. We need to focus on the singleness of God’s purpose. Our goal must be to seek that same unity of purpose among all those who follow Jesus.
Secondly, we need to adopt Paul’s plea for humility as our own. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Division always finds its beginning in the pride of mankind. Some individual or group either falls into the trap of believing themselves superior to others or falls into the trap of believing themselves to be hopelessly aggrieved by others. From the earliest days of man, we find pride swelling in someone’s life and then some form of evil befalling another. From Cain’s murder of Abel, to the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers, to David’s lust for the wife of Uriah, pride resulted in evil actions. Centuries have passed since Isaac and Ishmael struggled over the birthright of Abraham without an end in sight.
God’s power to redeem and transform is the only power that can set us free from this trap of pride and sin. The only path to unity is for us to see everyone exactly the same as ourselves. Each of us is an equal creation of God standing before God in need of his salvation power. We have to resist the temptation to elevate or degrade anyone because of their gender, level of their intelligence, level of melanin in their skin, coloration of the eyes, wealth, talent, or other human measure. This type of love, this level of devotion to others is only possible as the result of God’s redemptive work in the life of mankind.
Unity is elusive. We talk about it more than we actually seek it. Should we ever pursue it in God’s way, it will be life changing!