Stoking a Unity Candle Isn’t for Sheep

The Pinnacle of Babble
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray

At the conclusion of many wedding ceremonies, the wed couple rise to light the Unity candle, a solemn symbol of the merging of their two lives into one bound with love and Christian devotion. The Unity candle is at the pinnacle of flanking candles representing the two families now joined in matrimony.

All too often the sentiments behind the unity candle  get snuffed out shortly after the flame. The unity candle that winds up truly representing unity is a rarity. When a husband and wife make it to the ends of their lives together, there has to be an explanation.

All joking aside, it takes perseverance and a lot of faith to make a marriage into a true beacon of unity. Forces are too great in society and life for most to make it work.

In the Bible, nothing parallels the symbolism of the unity candle more than the story of the Tower of Babel found in Genesis, Chapter 11.

11 Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”  The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have  the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

Let’s look at the parallels. The people took pride in their unity, and like the married couple, saw a pinnacle as a statement of their determination to remain one people in one place. They sought to make a name for themselves that was greater than simply being one people. In other words, they had status aspirations as deities, for what other levels of “name” were there?

In this day and time in America, aren’t we doing pretty much the same? Technology has become god for much, if not most, of the world. We are putting technology at the pinnacle. We aspire to the loftiest of heights with aggressive, sometimes immoral, and mostly unethical gene splicing. The clamor for every new edition of the iPad causes those without them to feel inferior and deprived. By the same token, in the last 30 years we have grown into a disunified, fractious, and pampered 330 million souls. Like the builders of the Tower of Babel, enormous forces might just blow our nation apart. It doesn’t take something nearly so great as language difference.

Social networking, globalism, and institutions like “conservative” talk radio attempt to monolithically pigeonhole us into some faceless, amorphous mass with a single mind like that of a herd of sheep. A lot of us are rebelling, for that unity which is intended for us by our masters, is built like the Tower of Babel – weakly bonded with readily fractured cement. The question that would have destroyed the unity of the people of Babel long before the tower topped out was the same as that of today. Who deserves to be at the top?

God decided to end that nonsense before it got to that point. Why? Well, in His wisdom He probably saw that more powerful forces than language would eventually wreak permanent damage to the people’s family unity and even the roots of civilization. We see this all the time with politics.

Genesis 11 portrays a pretty stunning truth in these words – “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” We need to read, and re-read that verse carefully. Nothing is impossible for a people united!

Going back to the unity candle, we see that the two-lives become united only through, love, devotion and faith. Can we use the same permanent cement to restore a society that is built on those things instead of overrunning each other to the pinnacle? Sure we can. Nothing is impossible with the help of the Lord, but nothing is possible that arises out of human passions and weakness. We just need to come to our senses in time.

Some months ago, one of the wiser of the leaders in our area, asked your author this question – “What are the chances of that happening?” The answer was, “Slim, but it is the only chance we’ve got.” One chance exists in unity. What will we go through to find that truth?

We have each other and faith can be the cement for unity. We don’t need candles, pinnacles of fake “success,” or to make a “name for ourselves.”

Jerry Clower had the number right.



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