Unity is an ideal sought after, a longing of the human heart. After a national crisis, leaders will speak about people coming together. It is an expression of this desire, a longing to be connected, and the ideal that in connectedness our problems will be overcome.
Coaches seek unity on teams, because they know unity will multiply the individual strengths of the players, making the team stronger than the sum total of its parts. Coaches also know that a team with divisions ends up fighting against itself. It is a waste of energy and effort.
Yet, when we look at creation it is remarkably diverse. There are as many as 18,000 different species of birds. There are 4,810 know species of frogs. And among humans, there are more than 6,900 distinct languages.
God must love diversity because he created so much of it. Yet, we long for unity. Jesus himself prays for unity among his followers. In the Gospel According to John, the 17thchapter, Jesus delivers what is known as his high priestly prayer. He prays for himself, that in his Passion he might glorify the Father. He prays for his disciples, that in the coming trauma of his Passion they would be protected.
Then Jesus looks to the future and he prays for all those who will believe in him because of the message of the disciples. He prays for the church today, and his number one request for us is for unity. He prays “…that all of them may be one.”
God loves the diversity of the creation he made, but he longs for us to find unity. Why? The answer to this question contains a message that is particularly apropos for today.
Within the first weeks of the start of the 2020 presidential campaign season, nine democratic hopefuls had announced they were running. Among this group, there was one heterosexual white male. Each of the other candidates identified with one segment or another of the tapestry of human diversity, and they touted that identification to define themselves. How can there be unity in this?
Historically, the ideal of human identity was founded on a focus on the common experiences of being human, not in a focus on the differences. When human identity is totally wrapped up in the distinctions of how we are different, how can there be unity? Instead, we fall into tribalism.
Intersectionality tries to bring about a sense of unity by focusing on the points where the interest of the various tribes overlaps. But, the whole point of intersectionality is to unite various minority tribes to create strength in opposition to the dominate culture. In other words, it is a power play that creates greater division.
Each presidential hopeful made his or her claim for unity through the lens of tribalism. Can we find unity in hetero or homo sexuality? Can we find unity in Hispanic, Native American or African American ethnicity? Can we find unity in feminism? Can we find unity in the removal of gender specifics? It is not possible. Something has to override the specifics of tribalism to allow for unity.
Christianity provides that something. Christianity provides a greater truth that allows the diversity of all that God created to be brought together. We are, in our natural state, defined by gender, race or ethnic origin. But in Christ there is a new creation, where God takes people of all races, of both genders, and of all ethnic backgrounds and makes them into a new people IN Christ.
A basketball coach I knew and admired constantly preached to his players the ideal of the team. If they could put aside their differences and come together believing in something bigger than themselves – the ideal of the team – they would be successful. Winning and losing would take care of itself. They would reach their full potential.
When Jesus prayed for us, that we might be one, he was praying for this very thing. Through believing in something bigger than our tribe – through belief in Him – we can reach our full human potential. Tribalism denies the power of the Gospel. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which alone has the power to make us one.