The Christian Story teaches two enduring lessons about unity.
First, unity is only possible when our cause is greater than our conflicts. Jesus brought together men and women who once detested one another. But he enlisted them in a common cause of serving the poor, speaking good news to those who’d lost their way, and bringing light to darkness. He invited them to participate in a global mission of restoration and reconciliation. That cause outweighed their conflicts.
Second, unity is only possible when our devotion is greater than our differences. I may differ from fellow Christians in race, income, or political affiliation. But I share with every Christian this one thing-a devotion to the One who died for all on the cross. That commonality outweighs all differences.
The role of the faith community is to demonstrate this unity, to be a contrast-community which lives a radical harmony never before seen by the world.
Sadly, this is too often not the case. Our churches and congregations are known for discord more than they are known for accord.
Many of our churches no longer have a cause greater than their conflicts. Global restoration and reconciliation has been replaced by “keeping the faith” (code words for “do things as they’ve always been done”), condemning the cultural sin-of-the-day, or self-promotion.
And, many of our churches no longer have a devotion greater than their differences. Rather than focus on our one similarity—a love for Christ, we focus on our dissimilarities—church polity, policy and practice.
Perhaps the President’s call for unity should prompt churches and congregations to return to the unique unity which they alone have in Christ.
And, having restored that Christian unity, churches can point the nation to these two fundamental truths about unity. Congregations can urge the nation to ask these two questions: What cause is greater than our nation’s internal conflicts? What devotion is greater than our nation’s internal differences? If we could begin to answer those questions, real unity could become a reality.