Do I dare to hope for unity among followers of Jesus? I believe such a grand spiritual state is possible if we can harmonize like a choir and support each other like an addiction-recovery group.
As a musician, I experience unity by singing in harmony. Harmony requires listening to each other and blending together. Each part is different, but the collective outcome is beautiful.
The act of singing implies that we have agreed to join in an act of worship. We merge not only our voices but also our thoughts as we dwell on the message of the lyrics. We understand our purpose. The musical bond frees us to arrange each part in accordance with the composer’s intent.
As we make the song our own, we adjust to each other’s voices. The leader may request a compromise from the sopranos to sing softer as the basses bring out the melody. Sometimes the leader requires us to create differences in dynamics or diction.
Yes, differences. How can we find unity if we don’t accept diversity?
Like a polished song, unity doesn’t just happen. It takes work. Rehearsals do not always sound wonderful. (Ask any choir director!) Practicing how to work, live and worship together as believers has moments of discord and disagreement. But the goal remains the same: unity of purpose.
Just as the Apostle Paul had moments of frustration with the early church, Christ’s family today has a challenging time getting along. The glue that held the fledgling church together centuries ago was active love. Meeting together, eating together, sharing possessions, helping anyone in need — this was the attractive message, without words.
What holds us together today? Another type of gathering may give us clues.
Because my husband works in the field of addiction, I have been privileged to attend Alcoholics Anonymous conferences. These meetings have felt welcoming and accepting, even though the people in attendance did not know each other.
Why such unity? Unity comes from the strength we gain when hanging out with those who understand us.
The first of AA’s 12 steps is to admit that one is powerless over alcohol and that life has become unmanageable. Step 2 is to confess the need for God. Step 3 is to turn one’s life over to God.
Why do we join together in the church? Is it not to admit our sin and our need for God?
We need help, and we need each other. We need to spend time with those who understand our struggles and our shortcomings. Sin is a form of addiction. Alone, we are powerless against it.
We will gain unity if we remember our shared experience of sin. There is no need to point fingers or compare faults. There is no hierarchy of wrongdoing. Together we acknowledge that we are desperate and struggling. The power of God’s love is our source of hope and healing.
We need God. We need each other. This is our purpose and our unity.
Angela J. Kaufman of Sioux Falls, S.D., is a former music teacher turned author who is awaiting the publication of her book, Lying Sheep: from Butting Heads to Breaking Bread, regarding our interactions as believers.