Uniformity at the expense of unity?


Dave Hinman - Contributing columnist



In case you didn’t know, on Fridays the Wilmington News Journal collaborates with the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association (WAMA) to carry faith-based articles written by local pastors for the “Religion Page”, which created this opportunity.

Volunteer pastors select a calendar month, and submit their writings to be published each Friday. Not all WAMA members participate, though, for various reasons. Some pastors just don’t like to write, some are too busy, and some prefer not to reduce their musings to a permanent written record.

For those of us who do write, there’s a sense we’re doing our little part to encourage the reader. It’s a chance to serve the community, and fulfill our role in promoting God as life’s priority.

And there’s also the hope our latent journalistic capacity will finally be unveiled, leading eventually to nomination for a Pulitzer Prize.

Because there are five Fridays in July this year, I have the privilege of submitting five articles. The focus will be on the following subjects: unity, love, truth, pride and forgiveness. You see, our connotation of these qualities may vary some from the Biblical meaning of them.

I’d like us to examine these differences.

So, for this first week, let’s talk about unity, and to begin, let’s agree that unity is not the same as uniformity.

“Uniformity” is the quality or state of being identical. Not “identical” as in twins, but matching in aspect of beliefs and values. “Unity”, on the other hand, is the state of being aligned around a shared, common vision. It means oneness in purpose irrespective of personal opinion.

You see, uniformity speaks to the absence of diversity; everyone is the same. Unity, however, encourages the inclusion of divergent beliefs in the integrated pursuit of a common cause.

Unity is well described by the cliché, “agree to disagree”. Persons with differing perspectives find unity when they agree that a purpose exists greater than their individual differences.

I’ve pursued unity among churches since I became a follower of Jesus 40 years ago. In a variety of interdenominational venues, I’ve invested my energy to promote the cause of Christ, pressing through the vastly distinct denominational nuances encountered. It seems to me the primary reason for a smorgasbord of churches in most every community is the quest for uniformity at the expense of unity. Seriously.

The Bible can be dissected, delineated and disarticulated to define any doctrinal differentiation desired. Regarding predestination, you can be a Calvinist or an Arminian.

Regarding the assurance of salvation, you can be of the eternal security camp or a conditional preservationist. Regarding Jesus returning, you can be pre-tribulation or post-tribulation (or “pan-trib” as some say, i.e. however it pans out).

People shop for churches with doctrines that most closely align with their preferences. Their preferences are formed by scriptural interpretation, family tradition, individual history, or personal expectation.

In addition, though, many times, God literally plants us in a setting that will best meet our need for relationship with Him.

Regardless, I just wish folks wouldn’t lose sight of our greater cause, instead of hunkering down in defense of their doctrines.

Jesus made it clear, the job we’ve been commissioned for is to make disciples of all nations, not to show off our Biblical wisdom or prove why my church is the best one.

Likewise, our amazing nation, which originated in unity on the foundation of God’s love and individual freedom, has evolved centuries later to the extreme expression of those freedoms and the denial of God.

Through most of America, we have separated into divergent pods of people, seeking the comfort of uniformity within our bias. We exercise legislated freedoms to nurture division, and separate ourselves by political party, race, ethnicity, gender (or non-gender), education, affluence, sexual preference, intellect and age.

Would you ever have thought Americans would split into factions almost loathing one another, about whether a person wore a mask or took their vaccine? Lord have mercy.

How did America evolve from United to the Divided States of America? We’ve lost the vision for why our nation was created. Like many in church, as Americans we’re chasing uniformity within our individual bias instead of unity for the greater, universal purposes of God.

Psalm 133:1 says it this way: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”

Jesus said we should deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Did you catch that? He said, “deny yourself” (Matthew 16:24). To dwell together in unity, we need to put others first, in front of ourselves.

Here’s wishing you a safe, blessed celebration of Independence Day this weekend.

Please remember, however, that sometimes the best use of our freedom is to deny our independence in the pursuit of unity.

Dave Hinman is Pastor Emeritus at Dove Church Wilmington. Reach him at davefromdove@gmail.com .

This weekly column is provided to the News Journal on a monthly rotation basis by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.

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Dave Hinman

Contributing columnist