World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


Unity And Community

Individuals and families function within the context of a community, which in turn functions within a larger society, nation, and world. The individual's and family's well-being is bound up with the community's well-being, and likewise its well-being is inseparable from the peace and prosperity of the society, the nation, and ultimately, the world. Religious precepts undergird community by teaching the virtues of cooperation, friendship, justice, and public-mindedness. These create the spirit of unity by which community can thrive and prosper.

This section deals specifically with the theme of unity. The opening texts indicate that unity is first of all a gift of grace--a manifestation of the oneness of Ultimate Reality--reconciling those who would otherwise be enemies. The passages that follow call for unity among all members of the community--even to the unity of all humanity--and condemn divisions. The section concludes with passages which use the metaphors of a building and of the human body to depict the varieties of tasks and social roles which should mutually support each other to build a united community.

Israel's reconciliation with God can be achieved only when they are all one brotherhood.

Judaism. Talmud, Menahot 27a

The believers indeed are brothers; so set things right between your two brothers, and fear God; haply so you will find mercy.

Islam. Qur'an 49.10

Happy is the unity of the Sangha. Happy is the discipline of the united ones.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 194

I do not pray for these [my disciples] only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Christianity. Bible, John 17.20-21

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Christianity. Bible, Matthew 18.19-20

If two sit together and the words between them are of Torah, then the Shechinah is in their midst.

Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 3.2

And when a company meets together in one of the houses of God to pore over the Book of God and to study it together among themselves, the Shechinah comes down to them and mercy overshadows them, the angels surround them, and God remembers them among them that are His.

Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 36

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, upon 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 for evermore.

Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Psalm 133

Hold fast, all together, to God's rope, and be not divided among yourselves. Remember with gratitude God's favor on you, for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His grace you became brethren. You were on the brink of the fiery Pit, and He saved you from it. Thus does God make His signs clear to you, that you may be guided.

Let there arise out of you one community, inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: those will be prosperous. Be not be like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving clear signs: for them is a dreadful penalty.

Islam. Qur'an 3.103-5

John 17.20-21: This is Jesus' prayer for the church to be united, as a testimony to the world of God's presence in him. Cf. 1 John 4.12-13, p. 237; Pesikta Rab Kahana, p. 286. Matthew 18.19-20: Compare Qur'an 58.7, p. 110, where the same image is used to describe God's omniscience, a third party to every secret consultation. Psalm 133: Cf. Pearl of Great Price, Moses 7.18, p. 287.

It is because one antelope will blow the dust from the other's eye that two antelopes walk together.

African Traditional Religions. Akan Proverb (Ghana)

Meet together, speak together, let your minds be of one accord, as the Gods of old, being of one mind, accepted their share of the sacrifice.

May your counsel be common, your assembly common, common the mind, and the thoughts of these united. A common purpose do I lay before you, and worship with your common oblation.

Let your aims be common, and your hearts of one accord, and all of you be of one mind, so you may live well together.

Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.191.2-4

Abruptly he [King Hsiang] asked me, "Through what can the Empire be settled?" "Through unity," I said. "Who can unite it?" "One who is not fond of killing can unite it," I said.

Confucianism. Mencius I.A.6

Let us have concord with our own people, and concord with people who are strangers to us; The Divine Twins create between us and the strangers a unity of hearts.

May we unite in our minds, unite in our purposes, and not fight against the divine spirit within us.

Qur'an 3.103-05: God is one unity, and humankind should similarly be united; this reconciliation comes through submission to God. The unity of God, the unity of spirit and body within the individual, the unity of society, and the ideal unity of all reality (cf. Qur'an 2.115, p. 109), are encompassed in the Islamic concept of tawhid. Akan Proverb: Doing good to each other is the basis of societal unity. Rig Veda 10.191.2-4: Cf. Atharva Veda 3.30, pp. 255f.

Let not the battle-cry arise amidst many slain, nor the arrows of the War-god fall with the break of day.

Hinduism. Atharva Veda 7.52.1-2

My children, war, fear, and disunity have brought you from your villages to this sacred council fire. Facing a common danger, and fearing for the lives of your families, you have yet drifted apart, each tribe thinking and acting only for itself. Remember how I took you from one small band and nursed you into many nations. You must reunite now and act as one. No tribe alone can withstand our savage enemies, who care nothing about the eternal law, who sweep upon us like the storms of winter, spreading death and destruction everywhere.

My children, listen well. Remember that you are brothers, that the downfall of one means the downfall of all. You must have one fire, one pipe, one war club.

Native American Religions. Hiawatha (Iroquois)

Separate not yourself from the community.

Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 2.4

Maintain religion, and do not stir up any divisions within it.

Islam. Qur'an 42.13

Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.

Christianity. Bible, Matthew 12.25

One thing, when it comes to pass, does so to the loss, to the unhappiness of many folk... to the misery of the gods and humankind. What is that one thing? Schism in the order of monks. When the order is broken there are mutual quarrels, mutual abuse, mutual exclusiveness, and mutual betrayals. Thereupon those who are at variance are not reconciled, and between some of those who were at one there arises some difference.

Buddhism. Itivuttaka 11

Atharva Veda 7.52.1-2: The Asvins, or divine Twins, symbolize perfect unity of two. Cf. Rig Veda 2.39. Hiawatha: Hiawatha (Tekanawita, c. 1450), the legendary chief of the Onondaga tribe, unified the Five Nations of the Iroquois. The Iroquois League became the most prosperous and powerful of the Native American nations in what is now the eastern United States. Qur'an 42.13: Cf. Qur'an 30.31-32, p. 448. Matthew 12.25: Hence for the sake of unity, members who are immoral and rebellious may be expelled; see 1 Corinthians 5.9-13, p. 963. Itivuttaka 11: See Udana 55, p. 964, and Vinaya Pitaka 2.184-98, pp. 448f., the story of the schismatic Devadatta. To make a schism in the sangha is regarded as one of the Five Deadly Sins--see p. 185n.

Let all mankind be thy sect.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Japuji 28, M.1, p. 6

Consider the family of humankind one.

Jainism. Jinasena, Adipurana

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 56.7

All ye under the heaven! Regard heaven as your father, earth as your mother, and all things as your brothers and sisters.

Shinto. Oracle of the Kami of Atsuta

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Christianity. Bible, Galatians 3.28

O contending peoples and kindreds of the earth! Set your faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine upon you. Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out whatever is the source of contention among you. Then will the effulgence of the world's great Luminary envelop the whole earth, and its inhabitants become the citizens of one city, and the occupants of one and the same throne.

Baha'i Faith. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 111

To accomplish the gigantic historical task [of unification], you must discover the extraordinary power of love, love that does not become the circumstantial victim of society. Supreme love transcends every national, racial, and cultural barrier. People have always talked about love, but human love alone will never accomplish the task of universal unification. Therefore, we rally around one love--the love and heart of God.... The East and West are meeting here today, not merely because we want to see each other for personal reasons, but because the heart of God is linking us into one.

Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 9-11-77

The pebbles are the strength of the wall.

African Traditional Religions. Buji Proverb (Nigeria)

Abu Musa reported the Prophet as saying, "Believers are to one another like a building whose parts support one another." He then interlaced his fingers.

Islam. Hadith of Bukhari and Muslim

Oracle of the Kami of Atsuta: This notion that people are tied together with the kami and things of nature in one universal family builds a sense of community and respect for nature. Atsuta is a shrine in Nayoya. Galatians 3.28: Cf. Ephesians 2.14, p. 555. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 111: Cf. Gleanings 115, p. 515. Sun Myung Moon, 9-11-77: Cf. Sun Myung Moon, 10-20-73, p. 145; Wadhans, M.1, p. 239; Ephesians 2:14, p. 555.

Beware lest the desires of the flesh and of a corrupt inclination provoke divisions among you. Be ye as the fingers of one hand, the members of one body. Thus counsels you the Pen of Revelation, if ye be of them that believe.

Baha'i Faith. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 72

When one finger is sore you do not cut it off.

African Traditional Religions. Njak Proverb (Nigeria)

When they divided the Supreme Being, how many portions did they make? What did they call his mouth? What his arms? and what his thighs and his feet?

The Brahmin was his mouth, and his arms were made the Kshatriya, his thighs became the Vaisya, and from his feet was the Sudra born.

Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.90.11-12

Njak Proverb: Dependent, unsuccessful relatives and friends are still part of the community to be protected. Cf. Mencius IV.B.7, p. 979; Romans 15.1-3, p. 979. Rig Veda 10.90.11-12: This famous passage is the chief Vedic foundation for the caste system. It sanctions the distinctions between castes as having originated with the creation itself. Hence a person's caste, being defined by birth, is immutable. Some contemporary Hindu thinkers would prefer to interpret this passage to establish only a functional differentiation of social roles (as in 1 Corinthians 12, below). In that case, the various roles could be filled by people regardless of their birth or parentage. More of this hymn is found on pp. 868f.

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. They eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which are more presentable parts do not require. But God has so adjusted the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Christianity. Bible, 1 Corinthians 12.12-27

1 Corinthians 12.12-27: Cf. Ephesians 2.19-22, p. 286.

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