Elusive Unity

2nd Sunday of Easter

How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity. ~ Psalm 133:1

Even if unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is. – Hans Urs von Balthaser

A good friend and former mentor of mine Lyn Evans, after a few years in ministry, ended up divorced with two small children to raise. He fell in love with Geri, a single mom raising three kids on her own. I do not know if they were blinded by love, by courage, or if they were just plain naïve (maybe a little of all these things), but they believed they could blend their families together in concert.

They not only survived but flourished. I asked Lyn, “How did you all do it?”

He replied, “Well, if Geri and I went to bed at night and we were still talking to each other and if none of the kids were mad at us that night, then we thought we must be doing something right. We had just enough days, a few every month, where everyone got along. Those moments of peace and unity kept us going. We knew it was possible.”

When we experience unity, we get a glimpse of heaven and resurrection even though it is often elusive. Togetherness fills us with hope; everything is possible.

How often do we live in unity?

Unity is being together or at one with someone or something, being on the same page, being of one mind and heart. It is a rare, precious, and an invaluable, hard-earned gift. Ephesians 4:3 says, “Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The opposite of unity is division.

My father was a mid-level manager in the manufacturing division for Safeway. He worked in plants that made jelly, butter, ice cream, and soda pop over the course of thirty-three years. I especially remember his time in the “pop” plant in Texas. The division between management and the workers or between non-union management and union employees was ferocious. Frequently, everyone evacuated the plant when bomb threats were called in. We even had to leave our house once when a bomb threat was made against us.

The plant got shut down and sold. Everyone loses where there is disunity. Everyone flourishes where there is unity.

John Esposito writes, “For those of us living in the 21st century—an age of globalization, mass migrations, and increasingly multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies—mutual understanding and respect are critical to our survival.” How do we move to deeper understanding and compassion for one another?

Quite often we mistake unity for uniformity. (Look at the present UMC division over human sexuality.) Catherine LaCugna says, “Uniformity can be achieved by coercion, shame, and fear. Unity is diversity embraced, protected, and maintained by an infinitely generous love. It takes grace and love and the Spirit to achieve unity.” Unity is not uniformity.

After the plant my dad worked in got shut down, he ended up working for another soda pop plant in Richmond, California. It was a union plant as well and truly diverse with Asians, Hispanics, African Americans, and Anglos working under the same roof. But everything was different. They worked together in a caring environment; they met socially, and families became friends. The plant flourished. “Blessings reside wherever a unified, caring community exists,” says Michael Kirby.

“Unity is the reconciliation of differences, and those differences must be maintained—and yet overcome,” states Father Rohr.

When we learn to listen attentively and share our lives and life stories with one another, we find a common bond. We find life where there was once death. In the spirit of God’s peace, may we find our common humanity, and may we “live forevermore” (see Psalm 133:3).

Blessings, peace, and unity,