Disunity is Not Acceptable

Unity is a decision, as is disunity. To be divided is a choice. Disagreement is acceptable, it is part of tolerance and in fact needed for growth. A lack of agreement among people happens. Disunity goes beyond disagreement. It is created by splits, breaches, even conflict between people. Division thwarts growth. Disunity is not acceptable.

Disunity occurs when there is a lack of trust amongst the community, when there is unwillingness to listen. Remember it is not our capability but our willingness that drives success. We are unwilling to admit our weakness or another’s strength. We are unwilling to find shared experiences. We are unwilling to consider ideas outside our core beliefs. Teams that lack trust are unwilling to engage in unfiltered and passionate debate about ideas. There is an uncomfortableness with being vulnerable among others. Members care about something other than collective goals and results.

Yes, there can be individual advantages to division and fostering disunity. However, we win the battle, but lose the war. It makes no sense to burn something down to stand on the ashes. If you need to lead by the chaos caused by disunity, you are a poor leader. I worked for a company that had great people and a tremendous market position, but we fell short of our potential because the CEO felt he led best amidst disorder.

Abraham Lincoln famously said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” It worries me today that our nation is in such an extremely divided domestic political environment, we may not be able to find the unity and consensus needed to remain standing. We have become so blind with rage and being irrational when our favored political party does not win that we call fraud and deny the election results. Or we immediately begin impeachment proceedings. Zero energy is invested in putting aside our differences and grievances to come together on a shared vision to do what is right. The “Other Side” winning an election is not a threat to our nation, the disunity created in the process will be the source of our downfall.

Disunity is often avoiding the messy middle. Standing in the middle, to create unity, can mean getting shot at from both sides. Politicians, typically good ones who worked for what is best for the country, stood in the middle. Within the messy middle, believe it or not, exists clarity. Some doors close but others open. The messy middle can lead to a greater extent of growth.

Sam Cooke’s, A Change is Gonna Come, was written in 1964 at a period of strong disunity in this nation. It is widely considered one of Cooke’s greatest and most influential compositions. Up to this point, most of his songs were either touching ballads (“You Send Me”) or lighthearted up-tempo tunes (“Twistin’ The Night Away”). When Cooke heard Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind,” he became determined to write something similar as he couldn’t believe Dylan’s song wasn’t written by a black man.

There been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long

But now I think I’m able to carry on

It’s been a long, a long time coming

But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.

When we have an opponent, especially a strong one, it brings out our best. When we see that opponent as an enemy, it breeds hate. When we feel threatened by our opponent, it fuels our negative emotions. Such negative emotion is a good spark, but a bad fuel. We should view opponents as competitors or rivals, but not threats. We need adversaries to bring out our best. Iron sharpens iron. We need competition, not conflict. We need discussion, not quarrels. We need civility, not hostility.

We have developed the tendency to organize our ideas and positions around what we hate rather than what we love. Hatred has become a virtue, so long as it is directed against the right people or ideas. If we want to get back to being the light that Christ calls us to be, we need to “hate the sin and love the sinner” but focus more on who we are called to love. When we see disunity, we can be sure that someone has discarded forbearance, love, and humility. We are not taking the time to understand another person’s position; not looking for ways in which we might find common ground for discussion. We find and create reasons to be offended. We look for “hot” topics to argue. Forbearance is a vital part of agape love. Christ calls us to love our enemies. Our task as Christians is to accept Christ’s call over the culturally permissible path of disunity and hatred, which will never lead to peace.

Ephesians Chapter 4 is a general plea for unity in the church. But Christian unity is more than adherence to a common belief. It is shown in the diverse gifts we all have, to serve the community more Christlike. St. Paul writes in the opening verses (1-6), “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call, one Lord; one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

In Jesus’ last prayer with His disciples, He specifically and repeatedly asked the Father to make His disciples one, just as the Father and the Son are one with each other (John 17). Jesus would not have wasted His final prayer with the disciples on something they could have done on their own. Part of the Father’s answer to that prayer, just a few hours later, was the giving of His Son to pay the penalty for sin, which is the source of disunity between God and man (Isaiah 59:1-2). With that gulf bridged, the way is opened for redeemed men to become one with God.

Our relationship with God is the key to overcoming disunity. The solution to disunity is restoring our relationships with God, not to getting everybody together. This can only be done on an individual basis. Although we can give advice, encouragement, and exhortation – we cannot fix someone else’s relationship. Pursuing unity among men first while leaving God in the background inevitably leads to failure. God is love. Love’s presence between us is severely weakened during periods of disunity. God’s presence between us is then also weakened.

Our challenge is to live like we are one in Christ. Jesus built his Ministry standing in the messy middle that disunity avoids, we need to stand there with Him and foster the bonds of love.

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