Let me be personal. How can you achieve unity in our family, among cities and nations, in your business, with your spouse, in your nation or in your church? While we like the concept of agreement and unity, many times things end up worse than they started. Sound familiar?
In the ancient Hebrew language, every letter is both a sound and a picture. The letters in each word combine to paint a ‘word picture’ that describes the meaning of the word. Author Frank Seekins, a good friend of mine, conducts seminars on Hebrew words and their meanings. I’ve used some of Frank’s material today to help us discover, uncover and recover the real meaning of unity as described in the Hebrew language.
The Hebrew word for unity is ‘echad.’ ‘Echad’ means to ‘strongly fence the door.’ So, from this word picture, unity comes when we strongly fence the door. What does that mean?
Let me quote Frank here in his teachings.
“Imagine that you were in a movie theater and you saw a fire starting in the front of the theater. What are you going to do? If you are like me, you are going to get out fast! But suppose that the doors of the theater are locked and there is no way to leave. What are you going to do now? You have to put out the fire!”
“When faced between the fire and the door, we tend to take the door. But when the door is locked, we deal with the fire. Unity is found in this simple analogy. Every relationship is tested in times of trouble. If we have left a door open, we will not confront the fire and when the fire gets bad enough we have an excuse to leave.”
Now, that’s challenging.
What if we were committed to our nation, employer, church, spouse, and the like with this perspective? Now, I’m not talking about staying in extremely abusive relationships. But far too many relationships are broken, that didn’t have to be broken, because of hubris or fear. People don’t like confrontation. People don’t like to work through problems. So people take the easy way out. People never learn to deal with the fire! People just run from one burning theater to another.
Unity is not conformity.
Humility is a prerequisite to unity. There must be the willingness work though issues. There must be the integrity and maturity to negotiate. We can agree to disagree, but not be disagreeable. It takes commitment to the relationship to look for a win-win, not the current win-lose that we see everywhere and in everything these days. Often, the people and institutions who talk diversity are the most frequent violators of their own rhetoric. That’s regrettable.
Too many Christians run from one church to another. Too many employees run from one job to another. Too many people run from one relationship to another. Too many nations divide because two different philosophies dig in and don’t have the maturity or values to negotiate like they used to. When people dig in, they are usually digging their own grave. Just think of how entire nations and cities could be transformed if we worked out differences rather than polarized over differences.
The key to unity is to first to understand how unity works and then commit to the process of unity. In every relationship of any kind, there will be a time when conflict comes. Conflict is inevitable when you have two or more parties trying to work together. The key is how you deal with the conflict.
Let’s go back to that fire in the front of the theatre. When the doors are locked, wisdom says the fire is a bigger problem than your problem, agenda or issue. Fight the fire, not the person or party next to you. Too many people, nations, churches, businesses and the like have died in theatre fires while fighting each other. Just think if firemen fought fires that way. Everyone loses and nothing gained, at least for long.
What’s the takeaway here? Be a fireman with a fire extinguisher. Only you can prevent theater fires!