Our focus people group suffers from an unusual amount of internal disunity. Just ask any local man in the bazaar and he will gladly elaborate for you on this theme. Now, I know that the entire world seems polarized right now. But there’s something about people groups that are still essentially tribal in their thinking – and who haven’t had a powerful unifying leader or consensus emerge – that keeps them particularly and continually divided by outsiders and among themselves. Even when the outside world fumbles and they have a chance to gain some advantage they “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Personal gain undermines the common good time and time again.
A local tale cautions against this kind of disunity and holds out the hope of a better strength that might someday be possible. It goes like this.
“There once was a father with seven sons. He was up on the roof working and he overheard his seven sons fighting… again. Frustrated, he descended from the roof and called his seven sons together. One by one he gave six of them a single stick.
‘Break the stick, my son,’ the father ordered his sons, one after the other.
Each of the six sons with a single stick was able to break his stick in half easily. The father, after observing this, gathered up the stick fragments in a bundle and handed them to his seventh son.
‘Break the sticks, my son.”
Try as he might, the seventh son could not break the bundle of sticks.
‘Pay attention, my sons!’ said the father. ‘When you are divided and each of you stands alone, you can be easily broken. But if all seven of you stand together, you will be unbreakable.'”
This tale reminds me of the wisdom of the scriptures.
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12 ESV)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1 ESV)
Unity for unity’s sake is always an illusion. Unity requires substance, a shared love, shared commitments, and confessions. It requires definition. Broadness and narrowness applied in the right places. I don’t know if the tribes and political parties of our focus people group will ever be able to achieve meaningful unity. Perhaps. But my hope is that if they do, it will be because they will have learned it from the brotherhood displayed by a future network of healthy churches. The gospel will advance among this people group. And that means that one way or another, a healthy unity among believers and churches here will one day emerge.