Over a long period of time we’ve seen calls for unity, whether for unity in the culture, the Church or among the various political parties. Unity is a good thing but unity at any cost is not. For example, there is unity among a pack of thieves in carrying out a robbery. They are unified in their desire to steal. To get a little more subtle, when unity among different political parties is called for, notice that the cry of ‘divisive’ often comes from those wanting a particular outcome that the said ‘divisive’ party isn’t giving.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. Truth figures highly with Christ so why would we think that unity should be the top priority? The notion of unity can be inappropriately promoted in any given situation. Now, if by ‘unity’ is meant reconciliation with God and with truth, I am with reconciliation and unity advocates 100%. But sadly, this is often not the case.
Let’s take a look at Genesis 4:1-8, a story describing two brothers’ offerings to God. The brothers were Cain and Abel. Their offerings were different, based on their occupations. Abel “was a keeper of flocks… Cain was a tiller of the ground” so Abel presented his offering “of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” while Cain brought for his offering “of the fruit of the ground”, “fruit” meaning produce of the ground, such as grain. God “had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard”. The story continues :
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Cain’s offering was rejected by God. Why? The Genesis account doesn’t clearly spell out the reason but inferences can be made from the text. Cain was warned by God to “do well”, giving him the chance to repent of whatever offence he had committed. As the offerings of Cain and Abel are the subject of the passage, it may be helpful to note that Abel’s offering is described as his “firstlings” of the flock “and of their fat portions” while we are told nothing of Cain’s offering, hinting that it may not have been of the best of his produce. The offence may have been that his offering was given with the wrong spirit towards God and/or his neighbour (in this case, his brother), a point which is understood by some as the reason for God’s rejection of his offering. This could be true. God noting the state of the heart when offerings are made to Him has been a repeated theme in Scripture. See:
16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalms 51:16-17 (NASB). A Psalm of King David.
13 Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, 14 Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.” 15 Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, And whose deeds are done in a dark place, And they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?” 16 You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Isaiah 29:13-16 (NASB)
11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 1:11-13 (NASB)
11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 1 John 3:11-12 (NASB)
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. Hebrews 11:4 (ESV)
The Cain and Abel story tells us about right and wrong sacrifices to God and the biblical quotes above show us that a right attitude is required for offerings of service to be acceptable to Him. It shows us how a callous hardness develops when we reject God and what He is telling us yet continue with apparent worship. This, by the way, is the meaning of being made in the image of God. One of this image’s manifestations involves the possibility of personal communication between God and us. We can either heed our conscience or keep suppressing it in order to keep living without reference to God.
Unity is well described for the Church:
Colossians 3:12-15 : 12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.(NASB Strong’s (Lockman))
Verse 14 speaks of “the perfect bond of unity” and this is expected of the Church but the directive comes in a context, that of a heart yielding to God among the members of the Church, not a holus bolus call for the wider society to agree amongst themselves, even among different political parties, nor for Christians to necessarily come to agreement with the world on various issues. Please don’t fall for the one about unity at all costs. The call for unity needs to be discerned as either coming from God or, as is often the case in this day and age, as another Trojan horse set to bring down our culture and the Church.