The Canadian city where I live, Kelowna, has a slogan: Fruitful in Unity. It is fitting, as we live in the heart of a beautiful, fruit-growing area. In thinking about unity, what it is and what it is not, we must first identify the fruits of unity. If we look in the wrong places, we may totally miss finding them.
Why should we desire to have unity? The Bible says that God commands a blessing where unity is found. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1) Here we see the fruit of unity is God’s blessing in our lives and in our families and communities. So if we have a misguided idea of what unity is, we can easily miss the blessings of God.
By looking at what unity is NOT, we can discover what it is. Then we can see and enjoy the fruit of unity, God’s blessings and His favor.
Unity is NOT:
Uniformity. It is just not true that for there to be unity, everyone must agree on everything. If everything was uniform and everyone believed exactly the same, there would be no mention of nor need for unity. Actually, unity can only truly be found in diversity. It is in the very center of diversity that unity is to be reached for and discovered. Musically, different notes working together create pleasing harmonies. In a mosaic or tapestry, various shapes and colors are crafted together and produce a unified whole. In life, this collision of ideas, beliefs and personalities will produce the greatest unity when we choose to honour and respect each other. The fruit is that we all grow and learn from one another. As faith grows, our beliefs may change. Truth does not change, but our understanding of it may. This fruit from unity grows when we choose to learn from others. Many times it leads me back to the scriptures and prayer as I am challenged in my thinking. Here, the fruit of unity is growth.
An event. Unity is not a one-time event, nor a group of people gathering for a common cause. In fact it may take years to develop a common vision. Unity is found in a relationship, one developed over time, a relationship in which we prefer another above ourselves. You may be unified at an event, but the journey came first, and in that journey, a deep relationship was built. So you must create space for the journey and prioritize key relationships. As the relationship develops, trust is built and it is easy to discover unity. Far too much church or organizational activity is based on an event or a string of events without first allowing relational equity to be built. This fruit of unity is healthy relationships that create a great community.
Conflict free. Unity does not mean there will be no conflict. In fact, healthy conflict can create unity. Conflict works to produce fruit when we choose to love and walk in grace in the midst of conflict. When we can discuss and disagree but still love, we create a safe place to have openness and transparency. In that culture, unity is developed so we may safely share our hurts with each other. It actually allows people freedom to ‘fail forward’ and still remain in the community. In Proverbs, it says that adversity creates a brother. Another fruit of unity is the freedom to be authentic, being able to express yourself without fear.
When we look at the blessing of God through the lens of unity we can easily see that the fruit is personal growth, great relationships and the freedom to be who God created us to be. I am convinced that we are compelled by our faith to preserve the unity God has given us. Our families and communities benefit when we are more responsibility-focused rather than rights-focused; when we choose love and walk in humility, considering others better than ourselves. That’s where Fruitfulness in Unity can best be experienced.
Written by: Mark Gordon “Relationship Development Specialist” www.markgordon.ca