These days one hears a lot about UNITY. It’s a word that attracts attention simply because to the untuned ear the possession of it would constitute the elimination of war, violence, dangers,antagonisms, things that are suffused throughout the present world (and indeed always have been). So, they say, let’s work towards UNITY. Yes, let that be our goal! Let’s encourage each other to be at one, no matter what our beliefs are. Let’s forget our differences and be friends. There must be a lot of good in movements such as ECUMENISM, where previously antagonistic denominations decide to lay aside their divisions, and worship together. And just remember how the Pope gathered 120 different religious leaders together to Assisi to pray together for peace. What a good idea. Surely all these endeavours must be looked upon with favour. (This is called SYNCRETISM.) All those responsible for such moves are lauded for their courage and faith in pursuing UNITY. Should it not be so?
Our answer is a resounding NO. We will have none of it. It stinks spiritually. It derives from the pit of hell, and its author is the Devil himself.
Oh, but doesn’t that sound mean, nasty, divisive, just the sort of attitude that creates wars? People will round on us, saying that we are amongst those who advocate isolationism, who erect walls against other human beings, when we should be working for peace. Isn’t it right, for example, to get Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat together at the negotiating table, and encourage them to share out the land, be friends and neighbours, and live side by side in peace? Isn’t that a good motive? Aren’t George Bush and Colin Powell to be praised for their attempt to orchestrate it?
The Chinese symbol known as Ying-Yang consists of a circle in which two creatures are represented, continually chasing each other’s tails, one black, the other white. It’s a Taoist andConfusianist idea, that different and opposing ideologies will forever be trying to eliminate their adversaries, but never able to win. Initially the creatures represented male and female, but the idea extends to all opposing ideologies in life. According to their philosophy, neither side will ever be able to comprehend, or overcome the other.
What has been expressed above, in both eastern and western style, is based on a humanestimation of what is best in life. Men of the world may struggle for SYNTHESIS, but will never be able to eliminate ANTITHESIS. Is there another way forward? Does the Lord God of Biblical revelation have something to say about this?
Paul wrote to the Ephesians using these words, “Endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” So, on the surface, would he seem to be reinforcing the world’s way of looking at things? No. This is where great care needs to be exercised. The key word in the above reference is SPIRIT. Those who are truly “born again of water and of the spirit” need to know and to recognise the existence of this unity, created by God Himself. Have you experienced meeting people in life, and becoming aware of an underlying “unity of the spirit” before even getting to know them in depth? They speak “living truth.” At other times, however, we can listen to some profound preaching by a man who really knows his Bible, but it tires us, and we could wish the sermon to finish, and to get away. This is truth being presented by a person who doesn’t possess the “unity of the spirit.” It is “dead truth.”
Francis Schaeffer in “The God Who is There,” (1968), argued that there has been a paradigm shift in thinking in the world of recent years, and it has invaded the church. In earlier days, “If a man got up to preach the Gospel and said, ‘Believe this, it is true’, those who heard would have said, ‘Well, if that is so then its opposite is false’. The presupposition of antithesis invaded men’s entire mental outlook. We must not forget that historic Christianity stands on a basis of antithesis. Without it historic Christianity is meaningless.” (page 15) The basic presupposition is the existence of absolutes, incontrovertible truths that create antithesis. These, Schaeffer said, were being eroded in the Christian churches. Since his time of writing the malaise has grown rapidly.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, wrote in “The Sword and the Trowel,” February 1887, the following words. “Constantly we hear of proposals for union, and truly these are welcome where mere technical matters divide true Christians; but what is the use of pretending to create union where there can benone? There is another matter which needs to be thought of as well as union, and that is TRUTH. To part with truth to show charity is to betray our Lord with a kiss.”
Truth is not just an exact recitation or writing of Scripture by a man. Truth is something that lives deep within the soul , and is there by virtue of New Creation. It is nothing short of an expression of the Saviour Himself, the One who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” That is why we sense the “unity of the spirit” with some and not with others, even though both may use similar language. At this present time we ourselves have erstwhile friends who keep plying us with requests for reconciliation, and present what seem to be cogent reasons for forgetting old scores. But we have refused. They look upon this as a sinful act on our part, but we do not sense the “unity of the spirit”, and therefore there cannot (for now at any rate) be any reconciliation. In fact the word reconciliation doesn’t even apply. One can only be reconciled where once there has been harmony and true unity. Where it has never existed, one cannot ask for the restoration of unity.
C.S.Lewis wrote a book entitled “The Great Divorce.” In his preface he referred to Blake’s work on “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” Lewis showed that such a concept is impossible. Antithesis is a fact of life, and can never be twisted, turned, amalgamated, glued, or soldered to create synthesis. The Bible speaks of two opposing systems, Good and Evil, Light and Dark, Righteousness and Sin. But it also shows God’s intention of finally overcoming all rebellion, evil, sin, and darkness. He will emerge the Victor through the blood of the cross. There is no yin-yang in Scripture.
To conclude, let me quote another passage from “The Great Divorce.”
“We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. Even on the biological level life is not like a river but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.”
In the “tree” Lewis envisages, UNITY exists in the trunk and the rootstock. We must always be aware of that, whilst “endeavouring to KEEP the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace”, as our little twigs grow outwards. Diversity within unity is a splendid creation of God, which will bring Him enduring praise.