5 Ways to Bring People Together, Not Divide Them

“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, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133).

As unity grows ever more elusive and division digs in deeper, the church has an incredible opportunity to point the way toward unity in Jesus.

I’m offering a simple list of nine contrasts between unity and division. And no matter who opposes what, I doubt any would disagree with these contrasts.

9 Stark Contrasts Between Unity and Division:

Unity brings strength. Division creates weakness.
Unity brings peace. Division cultivates conflict.
Unity brings confidence. Division invites uncertainty.
Unity brings hope. Division breeds despair.
Unity brings optimism. Division fosters discouragement.
Unity brings power. Division promotes helplessness.
Unity brings faith. Division stirs fear.
Unity brings trust. Division elevates cynicism.
Unity brings progress. Division requires retreat.

It’s one thing to fall prey or stumble into momentary divisive behavior, it’s another thing to promote and cultivate it.

We experience temporary division among family that require forgiveness, at work that needs grace and understanding, with friends and neighbors that calls for reconciliation and peace, and even at church where we know that unity is our high calling (Eph. 4:1–6).

When we are at our best we seek to understand, push back selfishness and put others first, extend grace and work toward a common goal or at least healthy compromise. That means we know the right thing to do.

But it’s not easy. I know. And I certainly stumble. The reality is that our humanity is ever present. We have passion, conviction, and conflict is natural.

But we’re not powerless.

Perfection isn’t the answer, but doing the next right thing each day is the solution. Is it bigger than that? Yes. But it starts there. If you and I ask ourselves, what is the right thing to do and do it, we can create change.

We may not have the ability to solve global conflict, but a wise friend once told me, “Peace starts in our own backyard.” If each of us focus on what we can do, one person at a time. There is power in that.

5 Courageous Pathways to Unity Over Division

1. Lay down our rights rather than insist on our privileges.

Patti and I have been married for 42 years and it’s when we insist that we are right, (inferring the other is wrong) and dig in for our rights (what we want) that we have conflict.

In any relationship, if conflict is allowed to continue, division eventually finds it’s way in. And divided hearts divide families and organizations alike.

Most of the time its about small dumb stuff. We know the right thing to do, but it’s not always easy. Right?

Doing the right thing requires a pre-made decision to do it. We know what to do, but that’s different than doing it. A pre-decision is a game changer.

Pre-made decisions are based on values. They allow us to lead and follow for the good of others and the good of the mission.

What are your values and how do you decide ahead of time how you will serve and lead?

2. Find the common good rather than demanding our way.

Finding the common good (sometimes known as the greater good) builds on the foundation of laying down our rights. It’s very difficult to see the good of the whole when you are focused on the one.

Finding the common good requires the leadership ability of playing chess not checkers. Leadership is never effective with a “one move solves the problem” approach. Leadership is artful and nuanced, life changes and requires continual adjustment.

The reason the common good can seem illusive and difficult to achieve is because the landscape keeps changing. “Stuff happens.” It may not change the values, but it changes the playing field.

The common good is always based on (biblical) values and playing the long game. It requires the ability play chess, thinking several moves ahead. We don’t know the other moves that will be made, but we do our best to anticipate.

How are you developing your ability to lead by thinking through three-four moves (or decisions) in advance?

3. Seek to mend offenses rather than be offended.

Seeking to understand is the first step toward reconciliation. Understanding why we did or said what we did and why we respond the way we do, opens the door to unity rather than division.

Lack of understanding opens the door to repeating the divisive behavior.

It’s helpful to know if it was hurt or pride that caused the offense. That requires courageous self-awareness and helps inform the path toward reconciliation.

Team members who are easily offended struggle to elevate unity in the organization, and team members who struggle with pride can easily fall prey to divisive behavior.

We can also see how laying down our rights and finding the common good are instrumental in lowering the case of offense.

How is your team doing in this area? Offended easily, or laying down rights and finding the common good?

4. Be quick to forgive rather than judge and take revenge.

Judging a person or a group of people, even taking revenge is always divisive in nature because its rarely an individual behavior. Others are invited to take sides with the one who is judging.

This is lethal to any relationship or organization, community, society etc., largely because judgment is an intentional not accidental act.

Forgiveness is the force that breaks down the walls of division and unifies people at a heart level. Over time, this impacts the whole organization or larger community in a positive way.

Forgiveness doesn’t ignore the wrongdoing or dismiss the consequences, but it does bring peace to the individuals and a more hopeful future to the organization or extended groups of people.

Is forgiveness a grace that is pursued with diligence? It can change a family, a church, and have an extended ripple effect.

5. Be an evangelist of hope and faith rather than fear and distrust.

Words and behavior that cause distrust and create fear are the forerunners and fuel of division.

This kind of thing isn’t always intentional. It can come from our own fears and distrust that we then project onto others. But when we are aware, and continue anyway, that is always divisive.

Hope and faith are two great agents of unity, and when aligned with a clear vision, the most difficult of circumstances can be overcome and the greater good of the people can be realized.  

Hope is the vision of a better future and faith is the belief you can get there.

And ultimately, that’s what we do as leaders. We bring people together under a common vision for a greater good. The power of unity is truly life-changing and it is pleasing to God.

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This article originally appeared on DanReiland.com and is reposted here by permission.

Dan Reiland
Dan Reilandhttp://danreiland.com

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and the author of several books including Confident Leader! Become One, Stay One (Thomas Nelson).