by Yvonne Williams.
‘All for one and one for all; united we stand, divided we fall.’
These famous words, from the well-known book The Three Musketeers, by the French author Alexandre Dumas, are the motto of the three heroes, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, in a swashbuckling tale of chivalrous swordsmen who fight for justice.
It has occurred to me in recent weeks, while reading and contributing to the very diverse comments in this online discussion, that all who believe in any kind of deity would do well to adopt this motto for themselves. The one thing that unites us, with each other and with most of the secular world, is a social conscience and the desire for all human beings to be treated with dignity and respect.
When I was studying to be a local preacher, we were trained in theological reflection, using the Word of God to inform our thinking on our life experiences. Being of a somewhat contrary nature (some would say argumentative, but I like to put a positive slant on it!) I have a tendency to look at things from the opposite angle, so I have often reflected in reverse and used my life experiences to inform my thinking about God.
Here is an example:
My father had five children. When he died, many years ago now, my siblings and I each wanted to write our own individual tribute for the obituaries, rather than do a joint one.
The eldest daughter wrote of his unconditional love. If we were in any kind of bother, and however badly we messed up, we could always go home, and Dad would welcome us back with open arms and a shoulder to cry on.
The second daughter mentioned Dad’s passion for gardening. He loved growing vegetables, which appeared fresh on our dinner plates most evenings, even if we didn’t appreciate them much at the time!
I was the third daughter, and I recalled his spirituality. Though he rejected his Catholic faith, his spirituality shone through in his love of nature and the way he greeted everyone he met with sincere cordiality.
My younger brother, the only son, remembered their close friendship and the daft sense of humour they both shared, usually over a few beers in the local Labour Club.
My younger sister, the baby of the family and the one most like Dad in looks and in nature, simply said she had ‘treasured memories of a wonderful father’ which she chose to keep private.
My Dad was no saint. He was a product of the patriarchal and patriotic culture he grew up in. As a result, he was quite chauvinistic and even a bit racist, but the humanitarian in him over-rode his own prejudice and made him the much-loved husband and father whose spirit lives on in us all today. While protecting and providing for us as a family unit, he took time to nurture and develop a unique bond with each one of us.
So, which of his offspring could claim to have the only authentic relationship? Wouldn’t it be both ludicrous and arrogant for any of us to say “my Dad is the true Dad, and yours is a flawed version”?
I fully appreciate that not everyone has been blessed with such a loving father/child relationship, and so cannot relate to God as a father figure; all the more reason for us to allow others the freedom to seek and discover their own special connection with the Divine. We should hold loosely to our beliefs, because Almighty God is bigger than any religion and bigger than all religions combined. He is bigger than all our acts of worship and acts of mercy. There are as many facets to the nature of God as there are species of insects, flowers, birds or butterflies. Every expression of life on earth is a manifestation of God.
Chivalrous heroes we may not be, but our humanity is our God-given opportunity to know and love him in our own unique way, and to make our own small contribution to the well-being of the world and its inhabitants. One God for all people, and all people for one God. I feel a song coming on!
‘One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.’ 😊
14 thoughts on “All for One and One for All”
I have reservations about the second sentence of your second paragraph – but love your illustration. Ordinary stories can carry a theological message with power, and the ‘five siblings’ will stay with me. The lost coin, the two brothers, the scattered seed are still yielding crops of sermons, books and believers after two millennia……
Josie, I cannot understand your “reservations” about the second sentence of the second paragraph: “The one thing that unites us, with each other and with most of the secular world, is a social conscience and the desire for all human beings to be treated with dignity and respect”. Is it that you feel this universalises the Gospel by recognising it as inherent in how the unconditional Love of God is at work in the world, irrespective of belief, religion, Faith, the Gospel, Salvation, etc.?
I think those words from Yvonne are wonderful!
Thank you, Josie. Perhaps I should have said ‘one of the things that unites us’ rather than ‘the one thing.’ But I did say we are united with ‘most’ of the secular world, not all of it. For some, their innate goodness can be buried, smothered or even obliterated by fear, hatred, anger and prejudice, as a result of their life experiences. I’m glad you enjoyed the story though 🙂
There is a lot here that I agree with and I think it’s a very helpful analogy, with the important condition you mentioned. However, I struggle with the effects of evil on people and wonder if some still have the spark of something spiritual still within them. Sometimes this can manifest itself in the form of religion sadly. Thank you for the article though.
Thank you, Steve. I think we have to acknowledge the sad truth that evil does exist in all areas of life, including organised religion. But for most people of faith, religion helps us to hold onto the hope that good will prevail. In God we trust.
It’s the ‘ONE Thing’ bit. We are united by common humanity, aren’t we? If everyone had a social conscience and a desire that everyone be treated with dignity and respect, we wouldn’t have wars or slavery and we wouldn’t need prisons, either historically or now.
My main point was that Yvonne’s story was a powerful one which I would remember.
Sorry Josie but I can’t let that pass. For me faith means, among other things, having a positive mental attitude to life. I cannot accept that some people are inherently evil. If there were not a spark of decency in even an hardened criminal then there is no redemption for him, or her, and that is theologically unacceptable. Jesus went out of his way to befriend “sinners” and offered forgiveness to all. God’s love for all humanity is utterly unconditional.
Thank you, Robert. I agree. Whether we read Genesis literally or figuratively, man and woman started out in loving relationship with each other and with God.
Robert, you have built an imaginary edifice out of things I did not think, say or imply.
Yvonne saw the point straight away and accepted that ‘One of the things…..’ would have been more accurate than ‘The one thing…..’.
That was my only reservation.
There is a world of difference between “One of the things…” and “The one thing….”. Glad that is sorted out. What surprises me is to hear the appalling judgmentalism and exclusiveness of “The one thing…” from the pulpit. Do these preachers not realise the damage they are doing? The amazing love of God for all people is unconditional or it is nothing.
It sounds to me like you need to change your church, Robert.
Maybe you should give the Catholics a try? All I ever hear are heartwarming homilies about God’s unconditional love; no preachy Protestant sermons for me!
A Prayer for Unity:
I bring before you in prayer,
all those I love,
those I struggle to love,
and those I have failed to love,
and I thank you that we are all held in your perfect love,
which knows no bounds.
I pray that, with your help,
all prejudice will be overcome,
all hostilities will cease,
and every heart will be open to you,
the one true God,
creator, provider and protector
of all people.
In the name of Love I pray,
Though there is one light, there are many windows.
May the light of love shine in your window today.
Yvonne. I thought your contribution about oneness was wonderful. I agree that we all in this together and living in the amazing unconditional love of God: The love freely given to both Christians and non-Christians, Protestants and Catholics, male and female, white and coloured, straight and gay, saints and sinners – absolutely everyone. Not sure what you mean by calling this view “preachy”. I promise to give serious consideration to becoming a Catholic, if and when there is a female Pope.
Robert, thank you for your kind words; it seems we agree on a lot of things!
Sorry, I didn’t mean to say your view is preachy, I meant the ‘appalling judgementalism and exclusiveness’ which you referred to. If you are getting those kind of sermons from the pulpit in your church, perhaps it’s time for a change? It was a bit tongue-in-cheek to suggest you become a Catholic; I don’t have a problem with male hierarchy in church, but I can understand why some do.