Union and Unity

Larry Ray Hafley
Plano, Illinois

The terms of our title are frequently used synonymously and interchangeably when in reality they are separate and, distinct. Union may exist without unity or oneness. Correspondingly, unity may prevail without union. "But," it may be asked, "How is this possible?"

First, union is a joining of two or more items. Warring nations, lacking inherent similarity of structure or philosophy, may due to a mutually beneficial union to combat a common foe. Totally unlike substances may be mingled and a union is produced while their innate divergences of properties makes oneness impossible.

On the other hand, unity pre-supposes similarity and singleness of property, principle or purpose. Religious groups may be foreign to one another in creed and fundamental doctrinal stance, but they may form a union for a joint project. This is not true oneness. United individuals or groups may not even be aware or familiar with one another's existence, yet they may possess oneness. Spiritually speaking, such unity is affected by the Holy Spirit in Christ. For this reason, Paul in Rome could write to the saints in Corinth and refer to "the cup of blessing" and "'the bread which we break." Though each obviously drank from different containers and ate from separate loaves, they were, nonetheless, one. That is unity.

Christ is the vine. Christians are branches in the Vine. We in America are, in a real, spiritual sense, organically related to brethren in Nigeria and the Philippines. We may never meet nor greet one another on this side of the moon and stars, but we have a common Father, a common birth, a common faith, a common hope, and we are united!

A union, as previously observed, does not demand nor necessitate congruity, homogeneity, or similarity of nature. However, unity cannot consist without it. We do not possess a visible union with our brethren abroad. Still, we are united with them. It is apparent, therefore, that spiritual oneness is singleness in Christ.

Combinations or conglomerations of religious denominations are unions without unity. Denominations form associations, amalgamations, and confederations to bind incongruous, heterogeneous groups into unions that are tangible, that can be seen. But they cannot establish unity or oneness of nature. Denominations, each subservient to a party loyalty based on a party name and creed, may associate, amalgamate, and confederate, but they can never invent the unity provided by the Spirit of God. That invisible oneness knows no borders or boundaries of time, space, or mass. It does not need nor require man-made constitutional, institutional bonds of creedalism, or "me-too-ism," that is characteristic of human union.

All who love Christ and keep his words are one-and one does not love him who does not keep his word (Jno. 14:23; 17:20-22). They may never work in physical proximity or visible union, but they are "bound to Him eternally by love's strong cord, overcoming daily with the Spirit's sword, standing on the promises of God."

April 6, 1972