9 July 2021
“For the first and only time in my presidency, we didn’t need to sell what we’d done.” Those rueful words belong to Barack Obama, reflecting on the CIA-led operation in 2011, in which the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed, the man responsible for the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers. Obama goes on to muse over what might have been possible if the same degree of unity, expertise, resources and determination had been applied to educating children, housing the homeless, reducing poverty or curbing greenhouse gases. He adds, “I knew that even my own staff would dismiss these notions as utopian.”
How we long for that kind of unity, where we are all working together for a common and good goal. And how rare it is. At a more trivial level, this is one of the reasons many of us are so much enjoying the success of the England football team at present, because it is drawing the nation together, with some 27 million watching the semi-final against Denmark. Something similar happened with the death of the Duke of Edinburgh earlier this year.
Such unity is precious, while disunity is painful. Sadly, our fallen world is marked by disunity: we are alienated from one another, from ourselves, from our environment and – fundamentally and worst of all – from our maker. Yet the Bible treasures unity. Psalm 133 says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard.” We might not quite get the imagery here, but we sense it is good!
Broadly speaking, when people sin and God judges, the result is scattering: from the Garden of Eden, from the Promised Land, from one another. And when God saves, the result is gathering: to him and to one another. God is working towards unity, reuniting the world to himself in and under Christ. And “he has made known to us the mystery of his will … to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ,” says Ephesians 1.
And that is why church is so important, because that is where God’s unification programme has begun. According to Ephesians 3, this is where “the manifold wisdom of God [is] made known.” Our gatherings on Sunday may look somewhat weak and insignificant, especially at the moment, but they are highly significant. They are an advertisement for the wisdom and power of God.
Lord, thank you that you are uniting all things together under Christ. We treasure our experience of that unity and ask that we may we be faithful witnesses to it. Amen.
Chris Hobbs, Senior Minister