Unity. It is a thing which people speak of like world peace–something that would be nice to have, but naive to imagine we will ever achieve it. After several years of highly inflammatory public discourse, it seems like in many ways we are more divided as a country than ever. Yet when you look at the success of sports teams or companies, unity is an essential component to any sort of prolonged success. Unity contains the prefix, “uni”, meaning one. The question is, what makes us one? What do all people hold in common which can unite us in spite of different countries, climates, languages, cultures and customs? Where does that kind of unity come from?
It is safe to say unity will not originate in politics (though it could one day migrate to the public square). It will not come from philosophy or economic theory, and based on my recent parenting observations, probably not from the youth athletic fields. Some unity could come from nationalism, but we also know that the positive sort of healthy patriotism can get distorted into something ugly. That distortion happened in Jesus’ day with the zealots, and it happened less than 100 years ago in Germany.
Where does a true, healthy and lasting unity come from? It comes from a recognition that we are all human beings, created with dignity and value in the image of God. It comes from a recognition of a universal problem–sin, and the universal solution to that problem, the forgiveness of sin through the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
In an age when there is so much division, it is helpful to have a case study that demonstrates such unity is possible. The early church, despite economic and deep cultural differences, found unity in these truths. It was so generally well known that the love of Christians was such a unifying force, that in the 360’s A.D., the pagan Roman emperor Julian said to one of his officials, “They not only care for their own poor and sick, but ours as well”.
The apostle Paul talked about how the good news about Jesus brought people together–particularly the radically dissimilar Jewish believers and uncircumcised Gentile believers in Ephesians 2:11-22:
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
After a tense election season, and with some Thanksgiving table conversations looming, we should take heart in these truths. They are sufficient to bring people together at work and play, in families, and in businesses and communities. Real and durable unity is possible. God is in the people reconciling business. Let’s go into business with Him.