What is true unity?

By Brooke Stacia DeMott

unity‘No doubt, unity is something to be desired, to be striven for, but it cannot be willed by mere declarations.’

— Theodore Bikel

Platitudes are attractive because they simplify deep, complex ideas and put them within intellectual reach. In so doing, idyllic standards become less nebulous and take a more tangible form- and we begin to believe the utopia of the mind can materialize on earth as a permanent structure.

The rally cries for unity have risen to the platitudinal architects of American society- the media, the government, and the ministers- above the perfect storm of social rage and political division that have wearied the nation for relentless months.

While everyone likes a little drama, this year, the spice has become the meal- and we’re pushing the plate away in disgust. Everyone’s ready for a blander diet.

But, we’re skeptical, side-glancing one another with eyes of political partisanship. After years of being cajoled into hating one another by politicians and the media, the powers-that-be urging for a unified nation feels awfully superficial, and loaded with hypocrisy.

Still- against all odds- we continue to believe it can be done.

There’s a really good reason for that.

A desire for unity is deeply woven into the divine nature of man’s original design. Unity is, after all, the perfect relationship enjoyed by God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A triune God, living in perfect community, created man and invited him into this holy union. This eternal gathering is marked by love, its function is humble service and mutual submission, and its goal is expansive harmony.

That was our inheritance- until the serpent beckoned our first parents away with hushed promises of power, and they traded it all for a single bite of fruit.

Lured by that initial, seductive promise of ‘more’, Adam invited sin into human history- and it has entangled every generation since.

Since then, the story of God and man is truly themed by God’s pursuit to reconcile our lost relationship (ultimately, by the death of Jesus) – and our persistent, self-destructive flight from His advances.

But the desire for unity, in some form, remains. We err because we’ve forgotten where it came from.

We want to be like God, but without His wisdom, power, mercy, justice or holy nature.

That’s why this isn’t working. The best we can produce is a counterfeit unity, forged where powerful people work to subdue those around them.

This is a unity of complacency, and not a unity of conviction.

A ‘unity of complacency’ looks like this: 
– a tense truce urging people to cease discussion of anything contrary to the leaderships’ will
-focus on shallow commonalities to hide or smother discord
-unmotivated to action, as meeting objectives together lacks a sense of accomplishment
-requires constant management and oversight by a purveyor of false peace, who keeps the people quiet, but apathetic
-Leaders expend great effort in gaining and sustaining loyalty to themselves and their ideas

This kind of unity is maintained by keeping everyone in uneasy silence, where questions are discouraged, and questioning is condemned. It is manufactured, and because of that, ultimately unsustainable. We usually call this tyranny, and though that term widely applies to national governments, it can be found in any gathering- a corporation, a club, or even a church.

By contrast, a ‘unity of conviction’ would look dramatically different, marked by: 
– passionate forward mobility born of deep-rooted, shared beliefs in a meaningful common purpose
-an organic fusion of like-minded individuals coming together (and staying together) in universal pursuit of a higher end, not by persuasion or force
-genuine enthusiasm and equal participation- instead of making excuses, people make advances.
-disagreements are generally over style and preference while the common goal is universally agreed upon
-conflicts are managed by open, transparent conversation; everyone can speak freely and come to resolution without fear of rejection

This type of unity may seem like a fantasy, but in reality, this is a mark of the spirt of God which emboldens and embodies the church. Unity of the Holy Spirit is self-sustaining, full of joyful purpose, able to bear one another’s burdens, and propelled forward by confidence in the Lord. It is freedom, in its purest form.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor 3:17

When Christ died, He took the punishment for all of our sin to the grave with him. This incredible act of love made it possible for us to reconcile with God, and be invited back into that perfect community that we were made to enjoy.

More than that, Jesus promised to send us a ‘helper,’ the spirit of God Himself, to dwell in the hearts of all believers, knitting them together not only with God, but also, with one another.

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!” Ps 133:1

Tyranny holds people together by force. Unity holds them together by purpose.

How much better would it be, if we entered into the bonds of peace that He has prepared for us? Could we truly become ‘one nation, under God, indivisible’?

“…walk in a manner worthy of your calling, with all humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. “ Eph 4:1-6

— Brooke Stacia DeMott is a columnist with In Good Health newspaper. Got a question for Demott? Feel free to email her at brooketo@aol.com. The beliefs and opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this newspaper or any other agency, organization, employer or company.