Is Unity a Salad or a Cake?

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)

in harmony!
יָֽחַד׃ (yā·ḥaḏ)
Adverb
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)

and altogether
יַ֥חַד (ya·ḥaḏ)
Adverb
Strong’s Hebrew 3162: A unit, unitedly

Col 3:14 Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.

of perfect unity.
τελειότητος (teleiotētos)
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…

unity
ἑνότητα (henotēta)
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.

 [be] like-minded
ὁμόφρονες (homophrones)
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.)

Part 5: The Bible (Christian But Not series)

Summary of my previous posts laying the foundation for this post:

Christian: a person who has anything to do with Christ

Disciple: a person who is totally committed to following Jesus and all He said

Jesus did not call us to be Christians. He called us to be disciples.

Disciples give up their own truth for Jesus’ Truth

Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17 

I think we would all agree we would find God’s word – truth – in the Bible.

I started to write this blog as a history and explanation of the different versions of the Bible we can find everywhere.  I spent several days researching the Bible. It was a fascinating. But that’s not where I’m supposed to go with this blog. Then I tried writing about statistics of what Christians and non-Christians believed about the Bible. Again I spent a couple days researching. But that’s not where I’m supposed to go with this blog either. As much as I love learning about the Bible’s history and translations, there are many web sites of scholars who do so much better than I ever could. And as much as I am fascinated with statistics and what people believe, there are web sites that provide that information better than I can.

And then I ran into this:

Christians use the Bible. Disciples read the Bible.

And I knew where I am supposed to go.

Christians use the Bible to support and promote their views. Disciples read the Bible to form their views.

Christians use the Bible to point fingers at others. Disciples read the Bible to point their fingers at themselves.

For Christians, opinions come first, then Scripture. For disciples, Scripture comes first, then opinions.

We all know that Christians on both sides of every issue can find something in the Bible to support their views. Many times, the scripture is taken out of context, misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misused. Hopefully the Christians doing so don’t know that they’re doing so. But sadly, there are Christians who don’t care. If they can get a scripture to justify their opinions, then they feel entitled to use it to condemn others. This is not new. It’s been happening since the first Christians. Paul had to address it to the Roman Christians.

Romans 14:14-19 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess[b] to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

In a nutshell, Some Christians were condemning other Christians for breaking the law. They used the Old Testament and years of tradition to back them up. Other Christians were condemning those who were still living under the law instead of in the freedom Christ provided. They used Paul’s letters to other churches (they didn’t have the New Testament yet, but some of the letters Paul wrote were already circulating between groups of Christians) to back up their opinion.

Galatians 4:21:26 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

Galatians 5:1  For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and so not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Sound familiar? Christians fighting Christians, each using the Bible to condemn the other? I could think of numerous examples just by looking at doctrinal differences between denominations. But I also see it outside the lines of denomination. One huge example is how Trump followers use the Bible to condemn Biden followers, and Biden followers use it to condemn Trump followers. Or how Republicans and Democrats are using the Bible to justify their own side and condemn the other.

Both groups are using the Bible to defend their opinions, just like those Christians in Rome. And both groups are missing the bigger picture. 

God’s message has been clear since Genesis. Love Him. Love each other. Live in peace with each other.

Matthew 22:35-40  35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Isaiah 32:15-18 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.  

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

The Roman Christians showed in their fighting that they were using the Bible for their own agendas.

Paul, a disciple, showed that he had read the Bible and was responding using that lens. He knew the bigger picture. (Reread his letter to the Romans quoted above if you are guilty of reading familiar Scriptures like I do – skimming through them because I think I already know what they say.)

As disciples, we are not called to use the Bible. We are called to read it. How would our families, our work places, our stores, our roads, our leisure activities, our churches, our communities be different if we began reading the Bible instead of using it? If we lived as disciples instead of Christians?

I think it’s time to find out.