We’ve heard a lot about “unity” lately. What would it look like? How would we get there? There is a faked unity, all talk, maybe smiling for photos when, as Martin Luther King put it, our elbows are together but our hearts are far apart.
Sometimes “Let’s have unity!” means “Hey you, get with my program.” But the other guy wants you to join his unity.
You can’t have unity with people you don’t know, or with people you think you understand but don’t. You can’t have unity when you think the other person’s feelings are invalid. Unity isn’t even finding common ground, but higher ground. The way up that hill is familiarity. The shortest distance between two people really is a story. We will have no unity until we talk, listen and understand, getting beyond pity or blame to unexpected friendship.
The story of Christmas begins with the wonder, vulnerability, lovability and hope of a small child. We all once were tiny, helpless, beloved, with no hatred or bias imprinted on us yet. What if we put children in charge? Or at least made their needs and dreams where we find unity? No child should be afraid, or be prejudged. Every child should enjoy every hopeful benefit we have to offer.
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Unity only dawns when we live into Dr. King’s wisdom: “I can’t be all I can be until you are all you can be.” For that to happen here, we all need to change. Not just some of us, or the other guy. In the Bible, Jesus didn’t come until Mary left her comfortable place and went on a hard journey.
Unity in 2017? Get out and drive around, make some new friends, and listen, care, give a little. Maybe ask for God’s help – first in yourself, then for all of us.
Howell is senior pastor at Myers Park United Methodist Church.