As I was growing up, it seemed patriotism was an indispensable quality of being an American. Taking pride in seeing our flag unfurled against an azure sky. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance – to the United States of America – without feeling abused. These days, however, it often seems our nation is more untied than united. And that makes me sad.
That’s not to say I believe the U.S.A. is perfect. Far from it. Or that people don’t have a right to speak out against injustices and inequities they see. After all, the preamble to the Declaration of Independence first declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….”
This is a noble and reasonable ideal, but I don’t think it can be achieved through disunity.
As Jesus Christ told the religious leaders – the Pharisees – who were mustering opposition against His ministry, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a house divided against itself fall” (Luke 11:17). We see this principle being worked out in virtually every aspect of life.
If you’re an avid spectator of any sport, you see the importance of unity being emphasized in any contest – at least by the victorious teams. Whether it’s football, basketball, baseball, or even doubles tennis, all championship teams display unity, at least on the field, the court, or in the arena.
Years ago, I was in another country, meeting with business and professional men who were trying to build an effective marketplace ministry in their cities. Knowing soccer was the most popular team sport there, I used analogies from soccer to explain how they could achieve unity despite the diversity in their abilities and spiritual gifts.
Frankly, all I knew about soccer is what I had observed in watching my daughters participate in the game, but I knew enough. The goalie, defensive players, midfielders and offensive players all have different roles and responsibilities, but they must perform as a unit to win. Conversely, most of the players can do their jobs very well, but if one key player fails, the scoreboard will reflect that.
Over my lifetime I’ve had a few health issues – major and minor – that needed to be addressed, so I’ve learned quite a bit about the human body while going to various doctors for treatment and surgery. God created our bodies to be marvelous examples of unity. You could say health is a reflection of a body’s ease, just as disease and sickness is a sign of its “dis-ease.”
Years ago, Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey collaborated on several books about the human body, focusing especially on the problems of pain and suffering. If you haven’t read either Fearfully and Wonderfully Made or In His Image, I highly recommend them. They’re still in print and give compelling insights into how the heart, lungs, brain, lungs, kidneys and other organs work together in unity to keep a human being healthy. They also explain how the nervous, vascular, circulatory, skeletal and other systems also must function together to keep a person alive and well.
The apostle Paul also alluded to this in exhorting members of the ancient church in the Greek city of Corinth to strive for unity. It’s almost as if he were paging through the medical tome, “Grey’s Anatomy,” as he explained:
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink…. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body…. But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).
I’ve condensed this insightful passage for brevity, but Paul’s conclusion stands out: “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).
If you’ve ever gotten up in the middle of the night and stubbed your toe in the dark, you can understand the “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it” reference. That’s how it is when people are in unity, whether on a sports team, in a nation, or as members of a church congregation. We revel together in our victories, and suffer together in our defeats and hardships.
Elsewhere, the apostle again wrote of the priceless value of unity: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2).
There’s an awesomeness, a sense of wonder when we see people working in unity, pulling together and supporting one another toward the accomplishment of shared values and goals. Would that we could see more of this in our nation, as well as in the body of Christ, despite our differences in doctrine, practice and tradition.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.