Over the last few months, I’ve struggled with the word unity. Although calls for unity are necessary and appropriate, the word itself seemed to feel off — as if it had lost its flavor. I cringed when I saw unity used to encourage collective direction. Because I couldn’t understand why the word seemed so ill-fitting to me, I quietly decided not to say, write, or meditate on it. However, I noticed on social media that other people were openly rejecting unity as a timely rallying cry, and I thought, What in the world is going on? Why are we rejecting unity? Why does it seem to miss the mark?
Words are extremely vital — words wield worlds!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.(John 1:1)
And speaking the right word is significant.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)
Light was conceived in God’s mind. And with an utterance, light was birthed into being. Light existed. As a seasoned prayer person, I have become keenly aware of the impact of words and the power we invoke when we use them. I don’t take words for granted. I approach them with care and accuracy.
During my struggle, I agreed to give the keynote address for a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event. I was asked to include Psalm 133:1, and I winced! I did not want to pontificate on unity. It just didn’t feel right, and I didn’t want to fake it. But when the organizer shared the New Living Translation version of the Scripture, it struck me differently!
How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony.
Psalm 133:1 (NLT)
Perhaps because I have a musical background, the word harmony spoke to me more distinctly than the word unity. The verses that follow verse 1 of Psalm 133 expound on harmony through the use of similes.
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head . . .
Psalm 133:2 (NLT)
I dug deeper to learn more about this precious oil that was holy and worthy of anointing a priest. The oil was a mixture of four spices — myrrh, cinnamon, cane, and cassia. Together, they created a fragrant oil, an illustration of different people living in accord with each other.
Verse three gives another simile to give further clarity:
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion . . .
Psalm 133:3 (NLT)
The dew from Mount Hermon differs entirely from ordinary dew. This dew, or soft mist, of Mount Hermon is a phenomenon particular to the East and Palestine. During the summer when the heat is hottest and the country is scorched by the sun, the dew comes from the Mediterranean and crawls down the plains, reviving and refreshing every living thing (H. Macmillan, D. D.,The Dew of Hermon, Biblehub.com).
It is to this magnificent phenomenon that the psalmist compares the harmony of those who dwell together as brethren.
I was stirred by these beautiful and expressive images. The refreshing dew is called into place by the sweltering heat. An oil worthy of anointing a priest is a mix of four different spices. Harmony is a semblance of differences mixed together. Harmony is the interdependent relationship between intense heat and refreshing dew. The word harmony feels right, appropriate for our directive.
Honestly, I am still uncertain why the word unity doesn’t quite hit the mark for me and so many others. Perhaps the word has been co-opted and overused to imply uniformity. Connotations and implications of words do change with the times. Perhaps unity has been mistaken for compliance, and perhaps I needed to fully comprehend the breadth and width of the word harmony. Read these words again:
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.
How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
that was poured over Aaron’s head,
that ran down his beard
and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
even life everlasting.
Psalm 133 (NLT)
May we boldly and courageously reach for consonant harmony. And in instances when we feel like our differences are too vast to blend, when the heat feels too intense, and the refreshing seems like it will never come, may we lean in to appreciate the intricate, complex, and interrelated dynamics of harmony.Leave a Comment