From Jim O'Brien
July 12, 2019

The Illusion of Unity

Hi Friend,

Can unity exist among people that hold different opinions? I'm not talking about superficial opinions like which team will win the Super Bowl. I mean deeply held convictions. The prophet Amos asked, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3 NKJV) It's a valid question.

We use the word team, for example, to describe a group of individuals that work together in coordination. It's a fascinating thing to watch a football team work together effectively to move a ball from one end of the field to the other. But how could a team ever win a game if each player ran a different play?

Is Amos instructing Christians to shun every brother who holds a differing opinion? Are we to be, as some characterize us, like a box of yellow pencils with no distinguishable difference from one pencil to another?

One self-evident truth of life is that members of a team must give up individual differences to be effective. It is equally obvious that group think leads to tyranny.

It is simply impossible for two people to agree on everything. Winston Churchill once said, "No two on earth in all things can agree. All have some daring singularity." He is also quoted as saying that the only way two people can agree on everything is if one of them doesn't have a brain.

Two thinking people will inevitably have differences of opinion. Can such people act in unison or must people with bright and reflective minds walk solitary paths?

It is an incredible irony that differences are a source of unity. The book of Genesis says that God created humans "...male and female" (Gen 1:27) and mankind says "vive la difference!" The great irony is that it is the difference between the sexes that make oneness possible. The writer of Genesis goes on to quote God who commands a man to "leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (Gen. 2:24 KJV)

Four thousand years later the Apostle Paul wrote, "This is a great mystery:" (Ephesians 5:32 KJV).

Why does Paul call this a mystery?

If the greatest challenge in life is being one with God, the second greatest is unity with other humans. Paul uses marriage as a metaphor for a greater truth that is explained in the next sentence, "But I speak about Christ and the church."

What if God had not created woman? I suppose He could have created some form of asexual reproduction to perpetuate the species but I for one am glad for the way He did it. The great sin of homosexuality is the failure to appreciate the differences between the sexes.

Marriage is a consensual union between two people who are different in body and temperament. Even the courts recognize that forced unity between a man and a woman is unlawful. It is the same between Christians. For unity to exist there must be a mutual appreciation for differences. At the core of our spirit people know that forced conformity is only an illusion of unity.

In the 1st Century, when a conflict arose about circumcision, Luke writes that there was "no small dissention and disputation" (Acts 15:2) among the brethren. Translated: there was a huge disagreement. They resolved this problem just like a married couple. They talked it out, and the church grew.

One of the greatest gifts God has given man is the ability for two or more people to be unified as one. At his last Passover Jesus prayed "The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, (John 17:22 NRSV).

There is a mutual respect between the Father and the Son. The two are one. And Jesus prayed that his followers would be one and he and the Father were one. (John 17:21)

The great challenge of mankind is solved only through Christianity, is how people with sincere differences can become one in spirit. And that may be the reason that the Holy Spirit is symbolized as oil. It removes the friction.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien