Sunday, November 8, 2020

On Unity

There's a lot of renewed talk about unity in our country in these past few days. And this is another one of those posts that is going to look like a political post, but it's not - that's just a touchpoint for our discussion of something greater. Because Jesus said from the very beginning that unity was big on His list. "That they may all be one, as I and my Father are one." 

Unity is Trinitarian, and that's important. And maybe we'll talk about that later. But for now, we need to talk about the basics of unity - what it is and what it isn't and what it means to choose unity.

It's hard right now to grasp the hope and the promise, honestly. We are living in a nation that is so painfully and deeply divided and has been for a long time. And part of the problem has been not just the lack of unity, but the complete lack of interest in finding it. We have had those, for many years, who have not been interested in unity, who have claimed it has just not been possible in times like these, and who have said that it wasn't even worth pursuing. 

And as they now preach unity, as they celebrate because unity finally seems not only possible but near, as they make promises about bridging divides that they have refused themselves to walk across for years, the question is pretty obvious - why couldn't they have had this same spirit years ago? Do you know what would have been possible for us as a nation if we embraced this spirit of unity long before now? 

The answer that they give for this question is quite basic - they could not embrace unity because 'that man' was not deserving of our unity. They disagreed so strongly with the leader, despised his personality so much, detested his principles to such a degree that they didn't want to sully themselves with unity. Unity was not possible because unity was not deserved. 

This reveals two foundational mis-truths that have made their way into our understanding (or misunderstanding) of unity. The first is that unity must be deserved, that whoever we are uniting with must be worthy of our unity. That we have to have some kind of fundamental agreement on who we are collectively before we can come together. 

That's just not true. I can choose unity even if you don't. You can choose unity even if I don't. Who you are is not grounded in who anyone else is. You would not look at a world full of lies and say that you want to be honest, but honesty isn't possible; you would just tell the truth. You do not stop inviting persons to your table just because they don't come. Your hospitality says something about you. It says something about who you fundamentally are, and you wouldn't let someone else's acceptance of dismissal of that define you. 

This is a profound problem in the church. We say that we believe in unity, but then we look around and try to decide who is worthy of it. Who is worth our uniting with them? And we come up with all kinds of reasons why others are not. Their doctrine isn't quite right. Or their worship is a little weird. Or they have the wrong emphasis in their preaching. Or their members aren't as committed as ours. Or their practices are contrary to our own. And on and on and on we go with all kinds of reasons why we cannot choose unity because they are not worth uniting with. 

Let me be clear - when we fail to choose unity, it is always a reflection on who we are. When we choose to be divisive, that is an evidence of our own heart. A failure of unity is never, never because another party is not deserving of it; it is always - always - because of our own arrogance or stubbornness. It is always because we were not a people who chose it. 

And remember - unity is not uniformity. Choosing unity doesn't mean we agree with or approve of everything someone else is doing. That's not what it is. Unity is not an endorsement of the other party. That's another mis-truth that's gotten in our way. We're afraid that if we choose unity, we're saying without saying it that we agree and that's not it. What we're saying when we choose unity is that we choose us over everything else. That we choose the community, the collective, the group. That we choose to participate and engage and be part of the solution and not part of the problem. That we believe in who we are together more than we believe in who we are apart. That we believe that our oneness is something important, something special, something holy and that there is great work that we can do together, right now, even in areas where we don't agree. Choosing unity is choosing to come to the table, whether we like what's being served or not, because the feast is about something more than what we're eating. It's about being here, together. 

And that's why unity isn't about whether someone else is 'deserving' of it or not. Unity is about whether or not we're willing to come to the table. So yes, when we fail to choose unity, it always says more about who we are than it does about anyone else. 

(To be continued...there is so much to say about this.) 

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