The Choice of Unity
The importance of being united, especially in the face of adversity, is not a new concept or a particularly American idea. Jesus affirms the destructive power of division when He is falsely accused of being in league with satan. “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand” (Mt 12:25). Jesus preached the importance of unity at all times, not just in adversity, at the Last Supper when praying to the Father: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” (Jn 17:21-23). Unity preserves and, especially regarding the faith, brings more people under the Gospel. Christian unity witnesses to the love that God has for us.
The power of unity is not lost on those apart from or opposed to the faith. For example, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s slogan was ‘Workers of the world, unite!’ The communist party really meant this, they truly sought to have the entire population of the planet under communist rule, to have the entire human race living their a workers’ paradise. This desired unity was evident in the elections held for the legislative bodies of the Soviet Union. In the 1937 elections, for example, the communists received 99.3% of the votes with a voter participation of 98.6%. The 1946 elections were much the same: the communists got 99.2% of the vote with 99.7% voter participation. Similar results occurred in 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1979, and 1984. In fact, the worst showing for the communist party was in 1946, with 99.2% of the vote. With such unity, surely the Soviets would have great success in spreading their ideology throughout the world and that they would be thriving today. Not so much. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union died in 1991 and so did their dream of ‘uniting’ every man, woman, and child in the world under their marxist banner.
Why didn’t unity work for the Soviets? Because their unity was a total sham, an utter fiction. While they claimed 99.94% of the vote in 1984, that vote, like all of the rest of their elections, was hardly free, that vote was hardly a measure of unity. It reflected a conform-or-else atmosphere of a totalitarian regime. The unity was forced and it was false. Everyone inside and outside the Soviet Union knew this to be true. That they got 99.2-99.94% of the vote with nearly 100% voter participation reflects the false unity that fear and coercion can achieve.
Jesus never advocated for forced unity or coercion in the Kingdom of God. Never. The Sovereign of sovereigns respects our dignity, He respects our free-will choice to reject the Gospel. We see this clearly in John Chapter 6, when as a result of His teaching on the importance of eating His Body and drinking His Blood, “many of his disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’ … As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (verses 60 and 66). Jesus did not threaten those who parted ways with Him even though He could have. Jesus did not coerce their return even though He certainly could have by the power of His divinity. Instead, He challenged the Apostles, saying “Do you also want to leave?”
Saying “Do you also want to leave?” was not and is not an invitation to leave. It is not a sign of indifference from Jesus. Given what Jesus did on the cross, we can hardly say that He is indifferent in any way, shape, or form. He died as much for those who “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” and for the Apostles who did not understand what He was teaching yet nonetheless confessed “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69). Jesus unified eleven of the twelve Apostles and He can unify us as well. They were hardly uniform as men, they were hardly the same. Faith in Jesus and obedience to His Gospel made them one. They chose to follow Jesus and they were one in Him. By faith, not force, and by fidelity, not uniformity were they one.