November 17, 1992
A united Canada — was that what the national referendum was all about? More specifically, did those 50% plus people who voted NO do so from a united opinion?
Unity is not easily defined. In this case it is certainly not unanimity or harmony of thought on the issue. While the final YES or NO decisions may have marked two basic camps, the voters within those camps marked their ballots as they did for a great variety of reasons. For instance, some said NO because they felt too many concessions were made to various groups; some because they felt there were too few concessions.
An interesting display of what can also temporarily unite people was the outcome and final game of baseball’s World Series. Blue Jay fans were united by their joy over the victory and they celebrated together as one big happy family, for at least a few hours. However, one can hardly say it was a genuinely unified group. For one thing, on the very same day, likely half of them voted YES and the other half NO in the referendum.
To go to the other extreme, could we say a group is united when each and every one of them think exactly the same way about everything? One of my relatives belongs to a religious group that claims that kind of unity. He says if one person has a dissenting opinion, he or she is no longer allowed to remain in the group. Most of us generally do not think of unity as something that is legislated and consider such a group not really united but in some sort of dictatorship or maybe a brainwashed condition.
Christians have been accused of being brainwashed too, but what the Bible says about unity shows this is not so. For one thing, we are supposed to “strive for unity” and “dwell together in unity” commandments that go against our sinful bent to squabble. Like the referendum illustrates, unity is not easy to achieve.
However, biblical unity is also not unanimity — at least on every issue. We do not all have to think alike because freedom in Christ makes room for many varying understandings and interpretations. For example, one might vote YES on private schooling and another NO to the same issue. We do not get ousted for disagreeing on issues like that. Instead, our unity runs much deeper in that we are expected and even commanded to be unified over certain basic issues. In those issues, if we do not agree, we cannot be genuinely Christian.
Our unity comes from common beliefs. These are aligned with the world view presented in the Bible. We agree concerning God, Christ, the nature of man and the means of salvation. All Christians believe our salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ. Like baseball fans, we certainly have many occasions to rejoice together in those truths that unite us.
Christian unity not only allows diversity but even depends on it. Each believer has unique experiences and gifts that would be lost to the church if everyone had to think and act alike. It is God’s goal to bring us together to help all live for God in the fullest possible way, using our individual strengths for the good of others, “equipping us...and edifying us... until we all come to the unity of the faith...”
In that practical way, diverse ideas help build our unity, but the principle of Christian unity is not established or even developed by Christians. It is not a matter of what theologians decide or lists of church rules or taking a vote. Real unity is a matter of the heart. We could have no unity if it were not for the Holy Spirit who supplies it. When each Christian listens to and obeys Him, there is oneness among us. When we do not, we are divided.
For that reason, what the church (and Canada) needs to unite us will never be supplied by a vote, a document, nor a baseball team.