Unity is a powerful thing. A group of people using their strengths and talents with a common focused determination can accomplish amazing things. If the collaborative unity encompasses enough people, perhaps almost anything can be accomplished. Anything – good or evil.
Jesus was no stranger to the power of unity. He exhorted his disciples, his followers to be united as one, to be of like mind. He prayed for such unity on the eve of his crucifixion. He saw it inseparably bound to the success of his mission to see the world reconciled to God. If his people were united, they could change the world.
But he also taught the converse: divided, they could not stand. Even the devil’s kingdom would fall if it was divided against itself. A house divided would fall. A kingdom divided would unravel and come crashing down. Even a divided heart would result in a tumultuous life – like one being tossed about on a raging sea.
The ancient book of Genesis tells the story the tower of Babel. The memory of the near-extinction of the human race still loomed large in the collective memory. The story spoke of God bringing the flood in judgment on mankind’s wickedness. So, the people joined together as one and decided to build a tower reaching to the heavens and thereby make a great name for themselves. The tower might have been something like a giant ziggurat with religious significance. Their motives are not spelled out, but the fact that God later came down and thwarted their building efforts suggests that their intentions were not good. Perhaps they wanted to create a safe place higher than the mountains to avoid another flood. Perhaps they wanted to storm heaven and unseat God from His throne so that he wouldn’t interfere with their designs again. Perhaps they just wanted easy access to God in case things got out of hand.
The funny thing is that though they kept building upward, God still had to come down to inspect their work. His commentary is telling: “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” (Gen 11:6) The power of unity was there acknowledged by God, but understood that it could be used for evil and the undoing of all that was good. So God scattered them abroad by confusing their language.
Fast forward more than four thousand years to a time fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It was the feast of Pentecost and the city of Jerusalem was packed with people from all over the Roman Empire. This time God pours out His Spirit on the followers of Jesus so that they speak as one (despite the different languages of the people gathered for the feast) of the marvelous works of God. The outworking of that day was the salvation of 3000 souls. With unity in the Spirit of God, God’s people were being called to build a new temple, made out of living stones (redeemed souls), rising to the praise of the one true God of heaven of earth.
Today, it would seem that our nation and culture are severely divided, and as a result we appear to be unraveling at the seams. We need to be rallied around a common interest that will unite us, strengthen us, help us hold together.
The question is whether that uniting center will be God, or something dark in the heart of man.