This unchangeable sounds simple enough, right? Most of us are familiar with Psalm 133:1:
How good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.
Don't you love it when people aren't fighting. It's great when everyone can live together and get along with each other. However, as simple as this sounds, and as much as we would love for it to always be that way, it must be pretty hard to achieve because it seems to be extremely rare to find a place where it's actually happening! Why is that? More people than not would rather get along with their families and neighbors, so why is that so few truly do? Let's see if we can gain some insight into this simple, but elusive, place of unity.
As a father of two young girls, I am beginning to learn a thing or two about unity. When Ali, my younger daughter, was born, it took Ava some time to adjust to having another baby in the house. She had all the attention to herself for almost two years, so it was a little bit of a process before she was really happy to have Ali around. After a few months, though, she was finally ready to welcome Ali to the family. There are some days now when I go get Ava up in the morning, and the first thing she says is: "Ali . . . play Ali." It has been an awesome thing to be able to witness as they have become buddies, and one of my favorite things is to sit back and watch my two girls play together.
I'm sure I will grow to really cherish these times, particularly as the girls get older and there is more to life than Baby Einstein and Veggie Tales. :) I can remember the scene from The Cosby Show when Denise and Vanessa get into a physical fight and Cliff runs in to break it up and he gets knocked across the room! That may very well be me one day. :) So, as the girls grow, how do I maintain unity in the house? On the same note, how do we achieve unity throughout the Lord's body and the world? I certainly don't claim to have all the answers, or even most of the answers, but I do feel like I have some. Maybe the best way to understand unity and how to achieve it is to dispel one of the primary misunderstandings that commonly surrounds unity.
As my girls grow, it is important to me that Nicole and I create a home and an environment where it is safe for them to be themselves. Obviously we have to help point them in the right direction and provide discipline along the way, but we do not want to squelch who they are as individuals. This is a challenge already, but it is crucial that Ava grows up to be Ava and Ali grows up to be Ali. They are both my daughters, but they are not always going to look the same, think the same or approach situations with the same perspective. This will create disagreements, but it does not necessarily have to create disunity. One of the worst things I could do is to try to make them both the exact same to avoid disagreements. We cannot make the mistake of confusing unity with uniformity. The church at large has a number of camps with very different emphases and areas of focus. We all claim to want unity, but what most of us mean is that we want everyone else to unify around our ideas.
I think one key to achieving unity in a family, including the family of God, is to understand that we are different, and we are supposed to be different. However, we are all on the same team. On a sports team, everyone has a different role, and they will never win a game if they all try to do the exact same thing. My girls need to grow to understand that they are both very different, and that's OK. They will at times disagree, but they are going to have to learn to prefer the other one, accept the fact that they can't always have it their way and be sincerely happy for the other when she succeeds. How much more unified would the church be if we determined to do the same? I wonder how many of the disagreements might also work themselves out if we all agreed to work together toward the common goal of glorifying the Lord, and not so much our own ideas and opinions?
When the Lord created us, He never intended for any of us to be able to do it all by ourselves. We were intended to need each other. There are things you can do better than I can. There are areas where I may have experience where you don't yet. There are areas where the Baptist denomination is doing really well, and probably better than many Charismatics. There are some truths that the Pentecostals understand that the Methodists and Catholics might need to hear. We all have something we can glean from someone else's field, and we can never have the entire picture unless each camp brings their piece to the table. I love it when my kids get along, and I know the Lord loves it when His kids get along. Ava can never be Ali, Ali can never be Ava, but my family can never be the same without both of them! The Baptists aren't meant to be the Pentecostals and the Charismatics aren't meant to be just like the Episcopalians, but together we are all meant to be the Lord's family.
I know this post has been longer than most of my previous ones, but I think it is important that we take the time to understand what we have discussed here. As I close this post, I want to leave you with a free bonus feature. Get ready to laugh and be challenged by the video you'll find by following the link below: