Monday, November 9, 2020

Unity and Power

There is renewed talk of unity in our world, and this is important not just for politics, but also for the church. Jesus's greatest wish for His people was unity; He has called us to be one as He and the Father are one.

Yesterday, we began this discussion by looking at one of the mistruths of unity - namely, that unity must be deserved in order to be offered. But we saw that the reality is that whether or not we choose to embrace unity speaks more about who we are than it does about who someone else is. We choose unity out of our conviction that 'we' is always better than 'me.' We also introduced the concept that unity does not mean uniformity, a principle that allows us to choose unity even in disagreement. 

Today, we will look at the second big mistruth that we have embraced about unity, and this one is also very important. We have embraced the idea that unity is something we embrace from a position of power. 

It's not too hard to see this one at play in the world right now in politics (but remember, this conversation is not really about politics - politics is just the touchpoint that enables us to see clearly what is so easy for us to overlook in other areas of our lives). The party that has been outside of power and not interested in unity for the past many years has suddenly come into power and can't stop talking about unity. They can't stop talking about all the aisles they're going to cross and bridges they're going to build. They can't wait for unity. 

Unity, for those in power, always means one of two things - it means either creating a show of their own humility by lowering themselves to other interests they don't really share or, more often, it means gathering up a bunch of persons on the outside and bringing them into the new inside where they're certain to be more positive about their own lives. 

And I hate to tell you this (though you probably already know it, unless you happen to be in power somewhere), but that's not unity. That's not real unity. Using your power as the foundation for a dynamic does not create true unity because it's not an authentic move from you. It doesn't have anything to do with the group, with the collective, but rather with only pushing your own agenda. 

And unity doesn't come only from the top. It can't. Those on the bottom have to want to be in the unity, too. Those on the bottom have to keep coming to the table and bringing their own ideas and joining in the conversation. They have to be given, and accept, an opportunity to speak and to be heard, truly heard, even in a place where their ideas do not rank supreme. They have to be welcomed into the collective as equal parties, not as pity parties and not as potential subjects to convince of their own deficiency. 

Again, it goes back to this difference between unity and uniformity. The reason that it's so easy to think that unity comes from power is because power seeks to get everyone to agree with it (or at least submit to it) at all times. Power says it has the best ideas and that it's in everyone's best interest to get on board with that. And so power adopts a definition of unity that is actually uniformity - everyone agrees that this is the best course of action and if they don't, they either aren't welcome at the table or they are welcome only insofar as we're certain we can convince them that we are right. 

Again, that's not unity. 

Unity commits to one another, no matter which position we come from - whether relative power or relative weakness. Unity chooses the 'us' over the 'me' every time. Unity says that we're better together, whether we think right now that we're right or are being told that we're wrong. Unity doesn't depend on agreeing upon one way, but commits itself to finding the best way for all of us. Unity gives everyone a place at the table because it is not rooted in its own power, but is mutually submissive to one another in pursuit of true goodness for all. Unity understands that it doesn't always get what it wants, but it always ends up with something better and more valuable - a real relationship, a real community. 

Unity doesn't wait on power; it moves now, from wherever it is. Unity comes and sets the table now, and lets whoever may...come. Unity refuses to bow down or stoop down and always stands up. That's what real unity is. 

Which is why we don't have to wait until we have power to seek it. 

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