A Candid Conversation About Unity
We all use the same glossary, but not necessarily the same dictionary.
There are multiple definitions of unity. Webster’s Dictionary defines unity as:
- the quality or state of not being multiple – ONENESS
- a condition of harmony : ACCORD
- continuity without deviation or change (as in purpose or action)
- the quality or state of being made one : UNIFICATION
- a totality of related parts : an entity that is a complex or systematic whole
A practice to pursue.
What we mean when we use the word “unity” matters.
What people of color are concerned about when the word is used in the church is that it is another way of silencing the voices of the oppressed.
The call for unity can become a side-stepping of having difficult conversations.
Unity can be mistaken for the desire to have all people think the same things.
So how does the biblical concept of unity differ from our misconceptions?
BIBLICAL UNITY EXISTS ALONGSIDE DISTINCTIONS
There were Jews, Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, and Scythians. Although those distinctions existed, they were still one.
Unity can exist within distinctions.
This is modeled by the Triune God Himself, who is distinctly three persons, yet one God.
BIBLICAL UNITY EXISTS ALONGSIDE DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW
When God created male and female, he formed them from the soil of planet earth.
However, some have surmised that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus simply because their points of view are so different.
Despite their differences, man and woman become one in the unity of family; the three-legged race of marriage.
BIBLICAL UNITY EXISTS ALONGSIDE DIFFICULT SEASONS OF CHANGE
We must never forget that the Jerusalem council, the pivotal chapter of the whole book of Acts, wrestled with how to maintain unity among the Jewish and Gentile believers so that the gospel could continue to spread and multiply.
The Gentiles who were once “far off” were now made near by the blood of Christ, and this was an ethnic tension in the early church.
The early church did not duck the challenge, but met it head on.
Therefore, fighting for ethnic unity is a New Testament issue.
It is a multiplication issue.
Exponential does not want to define terms for you, argue specific viewpoints you should have, or assume that it will end racism.
What we DO want to see is unity among those who may differ both in ethnicity and understanding.
The opposite of unity is division.
Therefore, we seek to answer Jesus’s high priestly prayer from John 17:20-23, when he prayed,
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Our aim is that you would join the conversations we are having in order to host conversations of your own.
If every believer gained these three things, we would consider it a greater step towards biblical unity.
We are better together!
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”