What do we make of unity?
Unity is celebrated in the Bible. As in the unity of marriage. Or in the broader call to the unity of “one faith.” Brotherly unity is elevated in Psalm 133. Yet the impulse for unity is more than a Bible theme. We love to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We enjoy the fellowship of a picnic, a concert, or a movie night. Or having unhurried meals with friends or family.
But this sort of unity can be all too rare. Instead many of us experience life as a series of fragmented moments. Duties at work, or in our family demands, can splinter life into managed moments—into our feeling forever “busy.” So we try to escape isolated life by cheering with others at a football match, or in joining others in a hobby, cooking, a book club, and more.
Where is this appetite for unity rooted?
As creatures it starts with our relational Creator: with the One triune God. And his unity was meant for all his image-bearers. Jesus spoke of his aim for believers, “that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one” (John 17:22-23). And in 1 John 4:8 & 16 we read that “God is love” and our uniting focus.
He also reminds us that our human distinctions are by design. In Ephesians Paul 4 called for Christian unity as the fruit of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” We may have our many busy moments expressing our unique personal gifts and pursuits, but the Bible invites us by “one Spirit” to live with our “one head” who is Jesus, as we become “one body.”
Yet the Genesis Fall was a human decision to dismiss God’s love in favor of independence. So the Spirit—the bonding presence of God’s love—was grieved by Adam’s self-love and left him. Since then the Spirit is outside human souls, calling all to return to this first love.
The ultimate key to unity, then, is a response to God’s unifying love. And that unity is centered in the Son—in Jesus—who loved us and gave his life for us. He alone is able to bind together the busy and fragmented parts of life into a whole; to give us the focus we instinctively long for.
I know some readers will stop here and ask, “How did you make that leap?!
The answer comes, again, from what God tells us in the Bible. There are many invitations pointing to the Son as our ultimate unifying center of life. Let’s consider two.
First is the Son’s role as Creator and reconciler “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth … all things were created through him and for him. And … in him all things hold together. … For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things …” Col. 2:16-20.
The second is his role as Bridegroom—as John the Baptist noted in John 3—in whom all who love him will share an eternal companionship. This calling makes the very best of our human marriages into workshops for the joy that is still ahead.
In the meantime the world tries to fill this instinctive longing for unity with artificial measures. With holidays at entertainment destinations; with drinking parties; media fixations; careless relationships; and all sorts of social popcorn that never satisfy a deep relational appetite. And even in our churches we displace the Spirit’s wooing work with artificial calls to doctrinal or social compliance, or with events that mimic the empty values we see all around us.
True unity only comes among those who are captured by Christ. And he draws us into communion with the Father as the Spirit pours out God’s love in our hearts. Then we are free to taste and see how good the Lord is as he unites us together as one.