The Irony of Unity

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21)

Upon reading this passage, the visionary dreamer in me immediately transports to an epic battle scene— where a small band of zealous warriors fight off dozens of enemy soldiers charging toward them, all lunging, leaping, twirling, and swinging their swords in perfect, glorious synchronization. Similarly, the word “unity,” often times, sparks excitement and nods of approval because our minds auto-focus on the synergy and power produced by a body of people moving with one accord. Now one can certainly call this a picture of unity, but might also forget that it is merely the ending scene of a long-length film called Discomfort.

This truth dropped on my face a few weeks ago when I began to join Christians from other campus fellowships in praying for revival. Initially, my heart was eager to jump into this morning prayer gathering because it had the battle cry of unity. But when I actually got there, the glamour quickly melted and a thick coat of discomfort wrapped around me. It dawned on me (as ignorant as this sounds) that these revivalists are not like me. The situation felt similar to eating at your best friend’s house, and realizing that not all families run their house the same way you do. As excited I was to pray with these believers, I also itched to go back to a more familiar setting, like house church, where my ways of contending, discussion, and fellowship were the norm.

Yet the Lord kindly corrected me through this situation that unity isn’t defined by natural connection or harmony, but rather shaped by the inconvenience and pain endured for a greater reward. He reminded me of the twelve disciples, who differed in their occupations, personalities, even political views, yet were able to commune and minister together because their eyes were fixed on the one greater—Jesus. When a group chooses to prioritize Him above their agenda and interests, disagreements and discordances diminish into insignificance. And this only happens when people take a step of faith and get uncomfortable.

So soon enough, my discouragement shifted into hope knowing that my discomfort, although unpleasant, was a beginning step toward the unity on Christ’s heart.

But I believe this truth doesn’t only concern the area of unity. When we desire certain breakthroughs and victories in our lives, we become fixated on the freedom and the hurrahs without realizing that breakthroughs cannot exist without resistance; nor can victories without wars. As sons and daughters with eyes fixated on Jesus, our highest prize, let’s no longer look at discomfort with a spirit of despair, but rather embrace these seasons with hope and expectation that we are taking a step toward breakthrough—whether it be for unity, intimacy, or boldness.