The Beauty Of Unity
Updated: Feb 21, 2020
Chan Gin Kai
When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices. (Ezra 3:1-3)
After a long journey from Persia back to Israel, the returned exiles settled in the towns their ancestors had come from.
Israel and Judah was devastated by the wars with Assyria and Babylonia, so the Jews had to rebuild houses, plant crops and rear animals. They also had to start shops to sell goods, businesses to provide services, markets to trade and schools to educate their kids. They had to start lives anew, recreate a community, rebuild an economy and re-establish a country. There were a lot to do.
But the seventh month was an important month on Israel’s spiritual calendar; it was when they celebrated the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Tabernacles. So the Jews dropped everything they were doing, went to Jerusalem and “assembled together as one”. There were about 50,000 of them, but they behaved as though they were ONE. It was an inspiring scene of complete unity.
A Unified Leadership
The religious leaders (“Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests”) and the administrative leaders (“Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates”) didn’t behave like separate branches of leadership; there was no tussle for control, or the pursuit of different goals. Instead, they worked shoulder to shoulder and provided the people with a common direction.
As a church grows in size and diversity, the need for different “branches” of leadership evolves. There will be evangelists, elders, deacons and the church board. There will also be leaders of niche ministries and administrative managers.
The different leaders serve different functions and each brings their different God-given talents to their different roles... but they are all moved by the same Spirit to serve a common cause.
For the leadership to work in unison, ego and hierarchy has to go out of the window. There must be mutual respect for each other’s expertise, mutual trust in each other’s intent, and mutual appreciation for each other’s sacrifices.
There is no room for self-aggrandisement as the goal is to glorify God.
A Unified Cause
The Jews were unanimous as they followed their leaders. They could drop everything they were doing and gather as one because they were unified in hearts and purpose. They were all committed to the same cause – to make offerings to God. The Jews found courage to rebuild the altar “despite their fear of the peoples around them”. Their unity certainly helped them in that.
Unity in our church or our smaller ministry groups is not measured by how much time we spend hanging out, or whether we enjoy each other’s company. We can be totally comfortable with each other and even meet each other’s needs, but yet not be unified in worshipping God.
Unity is defined by how united we are in our hearts and purpose, and how committed we are to our cause.
Are we like-minded in desiring repentance, in calling each other to greater purity and devotion? Do we work in rapport to help the weak, reach out to the lost and serve the poor? Do we share the same desire to see our church grow in maturity, in closeness to God and in numbers?
Individuality does not need to be killed for the community to thrive. We will each have different dreams and unique personalities, and the church is more beautiful because of our diversity. The church does not require homogeneity, but God does call for unity.
Some sacrifices are always required if unity is to be forged. We may have to give up personal preferences sometimes, and we will have to put others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). While we can each pursue our own interests, our common cause to help each other draw closer to God has to take priority.
Following Paul’s “body analogy” in describing the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), it is good that we are all different parts of the body. A body with a thousand feet certainly doesn’t make the body run faster. The body needs different parts with different functions, all working in unison to thrive. While the hands may prefer a manicure, the feet desire a massage and the eyes want to binge on Netflix, their common goal to function together for the good of the body has to take priority. All of them will flourish when the body is healthy.
While our relationship with God is personal, the journey we take requires help from each other. Let us consider what each of us can do to forge unity in the Body. There is incredible beauty and strength in unity.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God". Gin Kai joined the Central Christian Church in 1988.