We are hearing a lot about “national unity” in the news these past several weeks. Politicians and other leaders are calling for us to come together as a common people with a common purpose so that our nation can heal from the wounds of the past four years. The irony is that both sides blame the other for the cause of disunity.
On one hand, we had a president who was contentious, aggressive, and often narcissistic in his approach to the office of the presidency, pushing the boundaries of decency and integrity. Many claims that he is the reason for our nation’s division. On the other hand, during President Trump’s tenure in office, many in our country subscribed to #notmypresident, and several lawmakers were discussing impeachment before President Trump even took office. We are even divided over the cause of our division!
Now, after months of violent protests and rioting across the country, we are hearing the call for unity. However, the approach of many in our government, media, and academia is not to achieve unity, but to create uniformity. Let’s consider the differences between the two.
Unity refers to the union or harmony between different groups. Unity happens when people from different ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, political philosophies, etc. are able to coexist peacefully and respectfully. Unity is similar to tolerance. We don’t tolerate those who think and believe like we do, but we tolerate people who we disagree with. Unity is a constant effort to treat each other with respect and tolerate each other’s differences.
Uniformity is the state of being uniform; holding the same views, beliefs, standards, ethics, etc. With uniformity there is no allowance for differences. If an HOA calls for uniformity, then every house must have the same basic color, design, landscaping, etc. No deviations are tolerated. Uniformity looks impressive and it is easier to manage, but it does not create unity. Instead of tolerating differences, uniformity seeks to eliminate differences and create an environment of sameness.
According to the website DifferenceBetween.com, “The key difference between unity and uniformity is their acceptance of differences; when there is unity, people tend to tolerate and accept differences, but uniformity implies that everyone is alike, so there is no room for differences.” (https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-unity-and-vs-uniformity/) When uniformity is the focus, the goal is not to discover ways to live in harmony with one another. Instead, uniformity seeks to create “harmony” by silencing all dissenting thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.
The focus in the church should be unity, not uniformity. As Christ-followers we are called to be the example of true unity in the world. One of my favorite and most quoted versus of Scripture is Ephesians 4:13 – Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. I’m sure you’ve heard be say this many times. Unity is at the heart of God’s purpose for His church. Jesus prayed that his church would live in unity (John 17:20-23). Psalm 133:1,4b, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity. . . For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” God blesses the church when it lives in unity.
But unity can be messy. That’s why the above verse in Ephesians calls for us to make every effort. Unity is not going to happen automatically. In fact, there is plenty of opportunity for us to be divided. Our church family is made up of people from various ethnic backgrounds, economic levels, faith traditions, and political sentiments. These are areas that today’s culture chooses to divide over. Not so in God’s church. Unity takes loving and patient effort.
While HCOG is not perfect, we do experience exceptional unity within our church family. What is it that unites us? Why would people from such diverse life-experiences strive for perfect unity? Because God calls us to perfect unity, and it is the Holy Spirit that unites us! Our faith in Christ allows us to look past our differences – or at least try to look past them – and to see one another as our brother or our sister. In Christ we are able to put our differences aside and accept one another as fellow Christ-followers. Because we are united in Christ we can accept one another, tolerate one another, and love one another. That is the beauty of being part of the body of Christ!
Totalitarian governments enforce uniformity. Cults enforce uniformity. Today’s “cancel culture” is trying to enforce uniformity to their way of thinking. As Christians we strive to live in unity. Instead of focusing on what divides us we strive to invite everyone to sit at the table so they can “taste and see that the Lord is good”. This takes a concerted effort. We still struggle to put our prejudices aside, and we have a long way to go. But we know this is God’s
will for His church.
One day our unity will be perfected when we are united with Christ in His Kingdom. Until then, let us strive to be a witness to a divided world by dwelling together in unity.
Your servant in Christ,