How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Sometimes I hear people speak of Unity in such a way that I am tempted to quote Inigo Montoya in Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”. Some people seem to think unity means everyone agrees on everything. That is unanimity. Unity is altogether different. Unity means we agree on our purpose.
Members of 12 Step programs know that our primary purpose is to carry the message of recovery to those still suffering. There are a lot of things we disagree on, like how meetings should run, what readings we should use and how to celebrate recovery birthdays. But we all agree that the most important thing we do is tell others that they don’t have to suffer any more, and that there is a place where they will be welcomed and loved.
Members of Christian congregations know that our primary purpose is to carry the Good News to all the world. We may not agree on lots of things, like what worship should look like, how baptism works, how to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and whether women can be ministers. But we all agree that Jesus told us to go out to care for everyone who needs to be cared for, tell everyone in the world about salvation through Jesus Christ, and invite them into a place where they will be welcomed and loved.
One of the best real life examples of Christian Unity I have ever witnessed is the Bringing Neighbors Together program in Selma. A lot of local congregations come together to plan and run Block Parties in underserved neighborhoods in cooperation with the Selma PD and various social service agencies. We have widely different understandings of theology and practice, but none of that is important when we are working to make life better for the people who come to the Block Parties. It is very good and pleasant to work together in Unity of purpose despite our many differences.
Unity should be simple. And it is. It just is not easy. Being willing to work together even though we disagree on some issues can be really difficult. But if we are to accomplish our purpose, then we need to put aside personal prejudices and resentments so we can come together to do the necessary work - whatever that work might be.
God of all persons, we know we are to strive for unity, but it is not easy to get past differences and disagreements. May we receive the willingness to put aside our differences so we may work together to do the work of reconciling all the people of the earth with you and with each other. Amen