In January, 1921, George Washington Carver testified to the Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on behalf of the United Peanut Growers. At the time, Carver was relatively unknown. He was assigned only ten minutes at the end of several days of testimony before the then-weary congressmen.
When his turn came, he carried two heavy boxes into the room, prompting the chairman to gently reiterate the time-limit. After quickly introducing a couple of his peanut products from his boxes, he held up a chunk of chocolate-covered peanuts before the committee and said,
You don’t know how delicious this is, so I will taste it for you.
With that, the congressmen laughed, and he held them at rapt attention for the next hundred minutes with his impressive display of the wondrous peanut. Within a few short years, chocolate-covered peanuts hit the market. Sometimes it requires a person to prove by experience how delightful a thing is to skeptics who otherwise will not believe and partake.
Christian unity is one of those things. It needs people to enjoy it before the world will be able to see it. Psalm 133 says,
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
As Christians, we get to sample and savor the gift of unity in Jesus Christ before a watching world. We live in a fractured world. Many voices in our culture want people to be divided, and it’s ugly. We get to prove there is an alternative.
Amid recent tensions regarding race in our country, I’ve been encouraged by the unity the Lord has given his people. Most believers stand quite clearly against racism, rioting, brutality, and there is a growing knowledge and clarity of past sins and present injustices that must be addressed. On the basics, we are agreed. We’re united in Christ, even if we don’t have uniformity of opinion on the precise nature and cause of every problem or solution.
Because we have already been given this unity in the Lord Jesus, we are able to have meaningful and profitable discussions about how to grow. To listen to some of the media, the church has never been more divided, and there are certainly tensions and divisions. But, my observation is that the church is actually making progress in unity on this topic. The current unrest has opened the floodgates of thoughtful dialogue, writing, and action. The saints are considering Scripture, current culture, personal experiences, history, and academic research. Sometimes, it's emotionally draining. The give and take proves that we can talk, argue, disagree, and grow as we remember our relationship in Jesus Christ who purchased us with his own blood. As we take our time to contemplate various aspects of our cultural moment and the challenges of it, we enjoy the beauty of Christian fellowship. We can disagree on specifics and still like and respect each other - even enjoy one another!
Unity is something towards which we work, but we have to remember that it is first of all a blessing from above. God is the one who has provided it for his redeemed people through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Derek Kidner writes,
True unity, like all good gifts, is from above, bestowed rather than contrived, a blessing far more than an achievement.
Today, I’m thankful that so many of my brothers and sisters are committed to enjoying this unity the Lord has bestowed. The commitment to cherish and enjoy our unity is cultivating love and humble confidence. It is cultivating joy in listening, speaking, reading, writing, discussing, and serving. When we have the One who is the way, the truth, and the life as our focus, we delight together in him and in one another.
George Washington Carver’s delight in chocolate-covered peanuts ended up blessing me, too.
Because Carver tasted their deliciousness for a watching congressional committee, someone decided that more should be made and shared. My great-grandmother was 23 years old when they hit the market, but by the time she reached old age, they were a near-staple in her home. She always kept her candy dish stocked with chocolate-covered raisins and peanuts when I was a boy. We loved them, and we still do.
Which makes me wonder...if the church would simply enjoy the blessing of Christian unity before a watching world that is fractured and broken, how many people in future generations might partake of the same delicious goodness?
Lawrence Elliot, George Washington Carver: The Man Who Overcame (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Direct, 1966), p. 172-177.