Section 3: Humanity
Week 3: God Created Us in His Image
Day 2: We Have the Ability to Experience Unity in the Midst of Diversity
Cor. 12:12-31, Eph. 5:25-32
In the previous reading, we noted that the image of God includes more than just a set of character traits God has given us. Nevertheless, it’s only natural to wonder what trait or traits we have in common with God. So let’s look at one of the ways we are like God: Our ability to experience unity in the midst of diversity.
We Were Created to Experience Oneness
In the section on God, we discussed God’s Trinitarian nature. He exists as three persons, yet is one being. God’s existence is, thus, a profound unity that arises out of diversity. Given that we were created in his image, it makes sense that we too would be able to experience a similar unity on the human level.
Although we are individuals, we weren’t meant to live in isolation. Whether it’s within our families, our churches, or even our workplaces, we have the ability to form tight bonds with other people and work together for a common goal. Of course, that falls short of the unity the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit experience. But the fact remains that we were meant to experience a form of unity or oneness in our relationships with other individuals.
We Were Also Created to Be Selfless
So why don’t we experience that unity more often? The short answer is: we’re selfish.
Unfortunately, I can point to an incident in my own marriage (more than one, in fact) that reflects this dynamic. My wife is a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan, and a few years ago she proposed taking a trip to see Fallingwater, one of his most famous homes, for our anniversary. My response was thoroughly self-centered. I’m not a Frank Lloyd Wright fan. So what was I going to get out of this? It’s a long drive from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania. Too long just to see a house, then turn around and come back. So I said, “No way!”
I could tell she was hurt, but it didn’t matter because it didn’t make sense to me. It’s our anniversary, so shouldn’t I get something out of the anniversary trip? I didn’t realize it at the time, but I wasted a perfect opportunity to bring us closer together. Not only that, but my self-centeredness actually created a distance between us. It was temporary, but you could see her pull away emotionally a little because I disregarded what she wanted.
God hasn’t designed us in such a way that we automatically experience close connections with other people. The fact is, they naturally pull away from us when we focus on ourselves.
Fortunately, in my case with the Fallingwater trip, a question from a coworker helped me realize where I had gone wrong. She knew our anniversary was coming up, and she asked me what I was going to give Jeni. Something about the way she asked the question caught my attention, and I realized I had been looking at the trip to Fallingwater in the wrong way.
By Design, Selflessness Promotes Oneness
When I thought about it from the perspective of what I was going to get, I wasn’t willing to go; I wasn’t going to get anything out of it. But I realized I didn’t have to look at the trip that way. I noticed I felt much differently about the trip when I looked at it in terms of what I could give Jeni. Once I removed my own interests from the equation, there was nothing to prevent me from doing something for her. So we drove out to Pennsylvania to visit Fallingwater.
Setting aside my own interests allowed me to take a step closer to her, which in turn gave her the opportunity to move closer to me. All of our relationships work that way. When we look at life primarily through the lens of our own interests, we’ll always find the path to oneness filled with obstacles. Our own wants and desires block us from moving closer to others, and in turn keep them from moving closer to us.
That changes, though, when we take ourselves out of the picture. When we take our own interests out of the way, there’s nothing to prevent us from reaching out to fulfill the wants and needs of others, which in turn prompts the other person to draw closer to us.
When you think about it, it makes sense that God would design things that way. We were created to reflect God’s image. God’s goal, therefore, isn’t simply to get us to reflect his oneness; he also wants us to reflect his selflessness. The two are inextricably linked. He designed it so that we can’t reflect his image in the one area without reflecting it in the other.
So we don’t have a choice. If we want to experience oneness in our relationship, we have to be selfless. We can’t experience the one without being the other.
Can you see the link between selfishness/disunity and selflessness/unity in your own relationships?
Identify a relationship in which you would like to see greater unity. List at least three ways greater selflessness on your part could bring about greater unity.