Close reading on unity
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
- Ephesians 4:3
How closely can we read this passage? Let’s test-drive the spiritual discipline of close reading of the biblical text.
Unity beats at the heart of this verse.
But unity can mean so many different things in so many different situations. There’s a bland form of unity that comes when people accept that mere tolerance is the best they can do. There’s a brutal form of unity that comes when the strong strong-arm everyone over to their side. There’s a brief form of unity that flashes brilliantly and then disappears ephemerally. What kind of unity is Paul talking about here?
Over and against bland or brutal or brief unity, Paul presents the unity of the Spirit.
The Spirit links us to Jesus. It’s his Spirit after all. The Spirit eternally participates in the divine dance along with the Father and the Son. By connecting us with Jesus and with the Trinity the Spirit also mystically connects us with each other. Our theology gives birth to our ecclesiology.
The Spirit’s unity carries the mark of the Spirit’s wildness, as Zaida Maldondo Pérez said: “[The Holy Spirit] is like the wild child of the Trinity, anywhere and everywhere moving, calling forth, and stirring things up.” Don’t call this unity “bland.”
The Spirit’s unity also carries the mark of the Spirit’s gentleness. The Spirit can be present with us without overpowering us or causing us to lose our identities. Although the Spirit has all power and might, we receive comfort from the Spirit’s presence. There’s nothing “brutal” about the Spirit’s unity.
And the Spirit’s unity can be kept. In fact, Paul urges us to make every effort to keep this unity. We don’t create it or manufacture it or earn it. We just keep it. The same way we “keep the faith” (Gk: t