When it is a question of reconciliation between individuals or groups in the name of faith, sometimes the fear is expressed that this may lead to a uniformity that would damage what is distinctive about each party. Will we not lose what is most authentic in our own way? Still worse, is not the strongest party in danger of swallowing up the others by imposing its own vision of things?
This fear misunderstands the vision of unity which is characteristic of the Bible and which is at the opposite extreme from our customary ideas. Our world generally takes as its starting-point the autonomy of each individual or group and then asks how to bring these disparate realities into a relationship. Since the relationships are subordinated to the identity of each individual or group, it is not surprising that they are fragile, always in danger of dissolving. The only lasting unity would seem to be a union imposed by force.
In the Bible, however, relationships are the most basic thing. The parts find their identity and existence by the links connecting them to one another. If God is Father and Son in the unity of one Breath, it follows that each person of the Trinity subsists only in reference to the others. If God is the Creator, that means that the universe exists only insofar as it depends on its Origin. If Israel—and later on the Church—is defined as God’s people, their identity is determined by the divine call and the human response to it. Unity does not undermine the identity of each element; on the contrary, unity makes each one what it should be. That is what Saint Paul tries to get across by using the image of the body: “Just as in one body there are many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we are many and one body in Christ (…) with different gifts according to the grace that has been given us” (Romans 12:4-6).
We should therefore not imagine reconciliation with God and with others as a bringing together of originally independent beings. According to the first chapters of the Bible man, created in the image of God and thus implicitly his son (see Genesis 5:3), intends to become “like God” while separating himself from God. This attempt at illusory autonomy only leads to disaster, and causes human beings to become divided among themselves. If God does not resign himself to this state of affairs but sends his Son to reconcile the world to himself (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-19), this is in order to restore the true condition of human beings, turning them into what they are in him from all eternity. Each diversified element rediscovers its authentic meaning by taking its rightful place in the context of a reconciled universe.