I have always loved the biblical phrase united in love: unity and love go hand-in-hand. One cannot be fully experienced without the other. Striving for unity in our relationships without a commitment to love is a futile effort. Hate groups have the appearance of unity but what they have is union NOT unity. All it takes to form a union is a common enemy, but it takes love for true unity to form. During World War II the USA formed a union with the Soviet Union against a common enemy – Hitler — but as soon as the threat of Nazism was extinguished, so was our common bond with the USSR and we stopped being friendly. We were united temporarily against a common enemy, but that was all, what we had was a union, not unity, and even that was short-lived.Some Christians are precariously united over a common enemy — they’re against the latest “badest” thing –but they’re not united in love for one another. Our Christian fellowship can’t be determined by who or what we’re against. We don’t need to show the world how much we hate whatever the most current evil issue is. Instead, we need to show the world how much we love one another and them. Only then will the world know us as true disciples of Jesus as Jesus said himself…By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34)
Redwood trees can grow as high as 300 feet and yet they have a remarkably shallow root structure. Do you know what keeps them strong, what keeps them from blowing over in the midst of a storm? Their roots may be shallow, but they intertwine. Each tree derives strength from the others. That’s not all. Each tree also shares its resources with the others. The trees that are closer to the water are able to give nourishment to the trees that are further away. Jesus followers are meant to work the same way. We are to be intertwined, interdependent and united in love. We are meant to give strength and spiritual nourishment to one another.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “All your strength is in union — all your danger is in discord.” He could have been talking about the Church, couldn’t he? When we start fighting with one another, we stop being effective. We need to keep in mind that we’re all in this together, and we need to hang in there with one another.
Mountain climbers are all tied together to ensure that everyone makes it to the top of the mountain. Likewise, we need to stay “tied” to one another to make sure that no one gives up but that every one of us makes it to the top of the mountain!
I think one reason so many people found iconic shows like Cheers, Friends, and Seinfeld so appealing is that these shows demonstrate relationships between people who are united in love. These flawed characters reach us because beneath their selfishness they are committed to each other. (In fact, the conflict between individual selfishness and group unity is what fueled most episodes.) Even though their character flaws are obvious to everyone in the group, they still belong to the group. People like that; they want to experience it for themselves. I like it; I want to experience it!
A driving force in Apostle Paul’s life was to make that happen. He wanted all Jesus followers to be united with one another in love. He wanted a church united in love.
Does that ideal drive us as well? I used to think that the path to unity was common ground but I have come to believe that true unity is formed when we all fall head over heels in love with Jesus! That is what it means to be united in love!
A thousand pianos tuned to one piano will all sound the same. If the prime piano is in tune they all will be in tune. If the prime piano is out of tune they will all be out of tune.
It is the same with Christian unity as well. When we, as a group, are each in tune with Jesus — when we are all committed to following Him because we love Him – we will find that we are committed to one another in love. But if we are tuned to anyone else or any other cause we may form a union but we will not form true unity. I believe we will only be united with one another in love when the source of our unity is the source of our love – Jesus.
Bob Snyder wrote, “Christian unity is not found in uniformity, organization, or a particular church, but rather in Jesus and our commitment to his teachings, and living them out in our lives…It is only as we join together with others who look different than we do but share a common love and commitment to the Truth that is Jesus, that we can know the completeness of the body of Christ.”
A driving force in Paul’s relationships was to help Jesus followers become united in love. Is that what drives your relationships? I believe the only way to spread unity among fellow Believers is by all of us being more in love with Jesus that we are with ourselves.
Centuries ago Thomas A Kempis made this suggestion, “If Christ is among us, then it is necessary that we sometimes yield up our own opinion for the sake of peace. Who is so wise as to have perfect knowledge of all things? Therefore, trust not too much in your own opinion, but be ready also to hear the opinions of others.”
Can we do that? Can we bend a little bit for the sake of unity? Can we pull back just a little bit for the sake of promoting love? Let’s give it a try. Let’s make promoting unity in love among all who share the Faith a driving force in what we do.