As someone who enjoys great storytelling, one of my favorite tales is “Lord of the Rings.” I find joy in dissecting the imagery Tolkien used throughout his masterful work. My heart rejoices as the power of evil found within the ring is conquered by the humble innocence of Frodo and his confident resolve. And when Aragorn ascends as the rightful king to receive his crown an overwhelming sense of redemption rises within. Although these moments provide emotional highlights to the story, the driving force at the center of it all demonstrates a greater need for one thing: unity.
Perhaps that word sits void in your mind as you read it, not surprising in our present-day communication. Personal disagreements have gone from open conversations about unique differences to extreme social media rants around deep-seated fear concerning another’s choices and beliefs.
Diversity has replaced unity with grand celebrations and movements highlighting our differences instead of our commonalities. Although it’s amazing to recognize those effects that make us unique, it saddens me that we prefer the personal notoriety diversity promises over the covenant fulfillment in Christ that unity provides.
In the 17th chapter of John, we find Jesus praying for generations of believers (the Church) before His betrayal and crucifixion. He’s asking the Father to keep those who believe, guarding and sanctifying them in truth. He then eludes to the mystery of His triune nature, pleading for the same unity between Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be among those who believe. “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:23, ESV). He desires those who follow Him to live in unity. And this unity is not uniformity, some perceived mandate that all Christians should think alike or perform identical ministries. Instead it gives common purpose and provides a platform for interdependence within the body of Christ.
One of the most satisfying components in my role as director of ministry and outreach for Volunteers of America is forming interdenominational relationships. Seeing pastors and congregation members come together to pray and serve those in need in communities across Wyoming, Montana and western South Dakota adds strength to my faith daily.
As Tolkien’s armies of Gondor and Rohan found, nothing tends to bring a group of diverse people together in unity like serving in battle. Whether that battles against homelessness, addiction or physical and emotional violence, when believers serve alongside each other with a common purpose, the spirit of unity allows for greater vision and strength in the most difficult of times.
Beyond diversity and compassion, kindness, humility and even forgiveness, God’s word reminds us, “…above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14, ESV). When we serve others together in love, the world witnesses how diverse voices come together in unity to create a magnificent symphony glorifying our Lord and Savior.
Nick Angeloff is the director of ministry and outreach for Volunteers of America Northern Rockies.