The Rarity of True Unity

The Rarity of True Unity

As a psychology student in college, I learned the word, “gestalt.” It basically means the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You can have flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, vanilla and salt—but it all tastes much better if you bake the cake.Spiritually speaking, gestalt is a term that could describe unity in a 1st Corinthians 12 kind of way… “For the body is not one member but many…” Whether foot, hand, or eye—the body, united and synchronized as one organism, is far greater than the sum of its parts.

World flagsUnity is a powerful concept. Many organizations and even countries include the word “united” in their titles as a hopeful intention:

United States… United Nations… United Methodists… United Way… United Healthcare… United Airlines… United Kingdom…


But unity in any context is rare. The human condition is fraught with strife and division. Think of all the countless arenas: tribal, racial, economic, ethnic, gender, marital, denominational, religious, political, ethical, generational, international…the list goes on. There’s always something divisive. Jokes that start with, “there are only two kinds of people…” show how trivial it can get.

Team workGod is attracted to unity.

Psalm 133 says that unity among God’s people brings a commanded blessing. Commanded means “an authoritative order.” Like—it’s going to happen…it’s a given. Here’s a great example…

Back in 1996, the Promise Keepers movement was in full swing. Our town’s local chapter hosted a monthly men’s prayer breakfast. One month, a big flap ensued because local organizers had asked a Catholic priest to be the speaker. Some men in the group objected. Unfortunately, that kind of attitude still exists. Yet many interdenominational Christian groups today believe there can be unity on essentials, freedom on non-essentials, and charity towards all.

Holding Holy BiblePK national leadership instructed the local guys to go with the Holy Spirit. The local leaders in turn handed the microphone to the priest—a  man known as Father Joe. That morning, men from twenty-two different churches came to the breakfast. The priest gave the kindest homily on God’s expansive love as a Father. The presence of the Lord descended like a cloud in the room, as men held hands and wept during the prayer time. True brotherly unity commanded a blessing—and a miracle happened.

In a sense, the rarity of true unity is in itself a blessing. But there was more…Continue reading



Several months after my friend Terry died, I pulled out an Early American songbook to play something familiar on my piano. It was an ordinary afternoon. I started with the marching chords of The Battle Hymn of The Republic. As the opening words streamed through my thoughts, I considered their meaning—as if for the very first time.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord… 

I realize those printed lyrics aren’t going to have the same impact on you as they did on me that day. It’s hard to describe the rush of emotion that came over me. I couldn’t play another note. I folded my arms on the piano and wept with great sighing sobs.

It was so unexpected.

The cross of GolgathaThe Holy Spirit suddenly overwhelmed the grief rising up in my heart—with hope. He melded together His plan for good with my earthly disappointment, surrounding me with a tangible presence of love. I was undone.

In a way, the cross itself was an intersection love, hope, and sorrow…

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

God is known for surprise visits.

Depressed woman on a benchHe moves us beyond the natural to the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal, from the loneliness of sorrow to the fullness of His love. He doesn’t give up when we do. Author Gregory Boyle calls it the “no-matter-what-ness of God.”Continue reading



Terry had serious throat cancer. He was pastoring a small church in rural Montana. As part of the community of people who loved him, we prayed hard and fasted long. We encouraged him and his family in every way we knew how. One by one, medical answers came up empty. Still throughout his illness we sought God’s healing power.

But Terry died anyway. He was only 39.

I cried a flood tears. My heart broke for his family. But honestly—some tears revealed my disappointment with God. Why would He take such a wonderful man? We needed Terry here. God is able to heal—but in this case, He didn’t. I asked God for understanding. Over the course of Terry’s decline I saw four dramatic symbolic pictures. In the wake of Terry’s death, God made sense of them.Continue reading