What is unity?
I’ve been hearing a lot about unity from the White House over the last month. I thought I knew what that was, but, based on what I’ve seen lately, I started thinking maybe my definition of unity was flawed. So I looked it up.
According to an online dictionary, unity can mean 1. the absence of diversity, of having unvaried or uniform character; 2. oneness as in combining all parts into one whole; or 3. oneness of mind and feeling among people where they live in harmony or agreement.
I wasn’t surprised with definitions #2 and #3 because that’s how I understood unity – people living in harmony together, agreeing to disagree when viewpoints differed, but ultimately accepting each other as valued parts of a whole. Unity like this can be likened to a large salad – each ingredient remaining identifiable, yet together creating a marvelous meal.
What I didn’t expect to see was definition #1. Absence of diversity? Unvaried or uniform character? That would be like cake batter in which most ingredients lose their individual identity when combined, disappearing in the uniform mixture they create. What would this kind of unity look like in this country? Who decides what that unvaried or uniform character would be? As I think about the increasing suppression of conservative viewpoints and intolerance of Christian beliefs that’s been happening in our country, and all the more since the election, the more alarming this has become to me. When the democrats speak of unity, is this the definition they’re using? Is this what Biden means when he keeps talking about unity? That would explain a lot concerning his actions and the direction this country is going.
I think I know what conservatives believe about unity.
I am beginning to understand what liberals may mean by unity.
But what does God say about unity? Which of the three definitions above does God mean? Or does He have His own definition? I did a search for the word unity on a Bible app and only came up with a handful of scriptures. Looking at the original Greek or Hebrew words didn’t help answer my question this time. Different words were used, and each definition could be interpreted in several ways, which is illustrated in different Bible translations.
Ps. 133:1 A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (ESV)
Ps. 133:1 A Davidic song of ascents. How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (HCSB)
Strong’s Hebrew 3162: A unit, unitedly
Job 10:8 Your hands shaped me and altogether formed me. Would you now turn and destroy me? (BSB)
Job 10:8 Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity; yet you would destroy me. (NKJV)
Strong’s Hebrew 3162: A unit, unitedly
Col 3:14 Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.
of perfect unity.
Noun – Genitive Feminine Singular
Strong’s Greek 5047: Perfectness, perfection, maturity. From teleios; completeness.
Eph 4:1-3 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Eph 4:13 …till we all come to the unity of the faith…
Noun – Accusative Feminine Singular
Strong’s Greek 1775: Oneness, unity, unanimity. From heis; oneness, i.e. unanimity.
1 Pet 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (ESV)
1 Pet 3:8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded and sympathetic, love as brothers, be tenderhearted and humble.
Adjective – Nominative Masculine Plural
Strong’s Greek 3675: Of one mind (intent, purpose), like-minded. From the base of homou and phren; like-minded, i.e. Harmonious.
Are we, then, supposed to choose our own definition of unity? Knowing God like I do, I don’t think He would leave us in the dark in an area that is clearly important in how we are to live. And I was right. I found a whole chapter describing unity.
1 Cor 12:1-30 (NKJ) Spiritual Gifts: Unity in Diversity
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: you know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make it known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given the greater honor to the part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
Unity, therefore, is both oneness and diversity. We acknowledge our differences, not hide, remove, suppress, or attack them. We find the value in each other, and work together as a whole.
This can be applied to our country also. In order to be a strong, whole, functioning, and healthy nation, we have need for everyone – conservatives and liberals, republicans and democrats.
We need each other’s strengths, ideas, and contributions.
We need both ears in order to hear clearly, or what we hear will be distorted.
We need both eyes in order to see clearly, or we lose our depth perception. We also have blind spots that only the other side can see.
We need all body parts doing what only they can do in order to be a fully functioning body.
Let’s listen to each other – really listen and not let out biases color what we hear. Let’s seek to find value in each other. Let’s work together to understand rather than condemn. Let’s pray for each other, holding each other up instead of tearing each other down.
Then, and only then, will America be the great nation we all want.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Ps. 133:1 A Song of Ascents. Of David.)