If you haven’t read my first post about what God taught me during my sophomore year of college, I suggest reading this post first! It’s all about how having a community is vital in our lives and how I discovered that.
I left off with this quote from last time:
“Because we are all created in God’s image, we can learn something about God from every person in the world. ”
After God taught me the importance of surrounding myself with a Christian community and then choosing to live for Him first and live for others second, he taught me a very important aspect of community: unity. The word unity is even in the word, community.
This begins with a mission trip to the inner city of Richmond with a group of ten people from my university’s chapter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
The Power of Unity
Some things I learned about unity: being unified doesn’t mean being the same. Since everyone is made uniquely in God’s image, there is something unique we can learn about God from each one of us. Diversity is for the sake of knowing God more fully. Unity is one with God and one with each other. It’s just like the slogan of my sorority: We are “One in Christ through unity in sisterhood.”When I think of unity, I think of celebrating differences, celebrating diversity. It means finding similarity among those differences, and by which I also think of peace. Unity is peaceful. Unity is a celebration.
My definition of unity changed during the mission trip to Richmond. Let me give you some background on that week. Out of my whole life so far, it was one of my interesting weeks of my life. If not the most interesting.
First off, I spent the week sleeping in an abandoned funeral home with the other girls and showering in the embalming room. That was the first interesting part. The second was everything I learned from our service to kids and our evening discussions with the leaders of the Christian organization we were serving.
The mission work was mainly relational, getting to know the kids in underdeveloped neighborhoods and learning more about the after-school programs we were working with. The neighborhood is mostly African-American and the first day we arrived we attended a church service that was nondenominational as well as very multicultural. Th service showcased many different worshiping styles and it was awesome! This set the environment for the week. We were strongly aware of multiculturalism, multiracialism and the process of building a community.
Throughout the week, we heard from different speakers from the same church: pastors, couples, founders of the after-school program, and other leaders. After the speakers, we had reflection time with our own university groups where we talked about how we could apply what we learned to our campus.
Today I just wanted to share with you what I learned about unity and multiculturalism during this week and how it affected me.
Unity only comes with authenticity. Unity only comes if we embrace who we are as a person, if we embrace our culture, and then open our arms wide with authentic and intentional attempts to embrace people of other cultures and backgrounds, despite their differences from us. Authenticity is hard. And it has everything to do with your environment.
My college is mostly white. According to our website, our “ethnic diversity” is 14%. There was a study conducted that asked students on a scale from 1 to 100 percent, how much do you feel like yourself walking on campus. One guy, who was white, said he was thinking about saying about 80% or 90%. Then, one African American student said maybe 30%. After hearing that, the guy said he dropped his number to 70% or so. This story put authenticity in perspective for me. Your community affects your authenticity, but how can we embrace differences if we don’t show our true, authentic selves? If we can’t be fully authentic, how do we build authentic relationships with each other? How do we build communities that can be unified with Christ?
I think it’s important to realize that authenticity and unity do not come easily and they are uncomfortable. One of the strangest ways to be uncomfortable is to embrace differences in others and let your differences be noticed. Unity among differences is uncomfortable–but it leads us to see a fuller glimpse of Christ.
Like I said in the beginning, there is something inside of you and something inside of everyone that bears the image of Christ. Without multicultural experiences, we only get a glimpse of who Christ is.
Revelation 7:9-10 says: “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hand. And they were shouting with a great roar, ‘Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!'”
This has encouraged me to be more intentional with my relationships. It’s encouraging as I prepare to go abroad and experience other cultures and meet new people. It’s encouraging as I learn that my desire to travel to new lands and experience new cultures is a God-given desire. While I don’t have many friends who are from other cultures or backgrounds, it’s definitely something I want to be more intentional with. It’s something I want to change.
I’m going to take a quick break right before the ending to say that so many of these topics are interconnected and it was awesome that God was teaching me so much during this time. It’s awesome that I’m learning more now as I come back and write all of this out!
So we’ve talked about the importance of authenticity, intentional relationships, and multiculturalism with unity. We’ve talked about what unity is and what it is not.
But why is unity so powerful and important? Why is this post called “The Power of Unity?” It all comes down to this verse:
Jesus prays for his disciples in John 17:23 and says “I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”
I love that verse! Unity is the one of the most if not the most powerful tool we could use to bring the world to Christ and show the love of God. Think about it: Put a group of people together from varying backgrounds, opinions, cultures, languages, financial situations, etc. and they are unified, working together, loving each other and believing in one loving God. Do you think the world would see that? Do you think the world sit back and be awed and amazed? Do you think the world would be so awed and amazed to join in with them? That’s the power of unity. It’s the power to save the world through sharing God’s love.