The Biblical Meaning of the Christian Unity Ceremony, part one

This is part one in a three part series on the meaning of the unity ceremony in a Christian wedding. Click here to go to part two. Click here for part three.

Lighting the Unity Candle

About 40 years ago, the unity candle ceremony made its debut in western Christian weddings. Where it originated is unclear though variations of the ceremony exist in multiple cultures throughout history dating as far back as ancient Greece. Some bloggers contend that the modern version was created by an ambitious candle company. Since a large part of what I do here on Christian Bridal Fair is share Christian traditions and principles about weddings, I have to admit I was a tad disappointed when I read this. I just assumed the unity candle ceremony had a lengthy history in Christian weddings. I decided to do a bible study on unity and candles to see if there was a solid biblical foundation for the ceremony.

All I can say is, “WOW.”

I was so excited with what I found. I am that much more convicted that the unity candle ceremony is THE unity ceremony of choice for Christians.

What is Unity?

The best verse I found to sum up unity is found in 2 Chronicles 30:12. Ironically enough, in 17 of the translations I examined, the word “unity” does not appear in this verse. Here is what the King James says, “Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the LORD.” 16 other translations also use the phrase “one heart.”

The NIV translated this as, “Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD.” 5 other translations also use “unity of mind.”

“They did it with one heart, were all of a mind in it, and the hand of God gave them that one heart; for it is in the day of power that Christ’s subjects are made willing. It is God that works both to will and to do. When people, at any time, manifest an unexpected forwardness to do that which is good, we must acknowledge that hand of God in it.”Matthew Henry on 2 Chronicles 30:12

What does “one heart” mean? The one part is pretty self explanatory but what about heart? What does the bible mean when it refers to the heart? The Hebrew Lexicon says that heart means the “inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding. The soul, mind, conscience. A seat of appetites, emotions, passions and courage.”

In other words, unity is when God changes our mind, will, heart, soul and conscience – our deepest desires or appetites, our emotions and our passions – into agreement with another person so that we act as one. Wow. That is amazingly powerful to me. What a promise! Our God is so good.

Through my study, I found 7 keys aspects to unity.

1. Unity is a Supernatural State.

We can see from these verses that unity is given by God. It is not the natural state of affairs but a Supernatural condition. The people of Judah did not say, “Well, I really want to do it my way but I’ll ignore that for the sake of unity. Aren’t I a big person? Look at me laying down my desires for the sake of unity,” while secretly saying, “Man this stinks. I’d much rather be working in my garden today.” No, God did a mighty work in the hearts of the people. He changed their desires so that they all wanted to do this thing. They all had inner peace with it. Their desire – their will – was transformed by God.

Click here to visit Unity Ceremony Central – everything you need for your Christian Unity Ceremony.

 
2. Unity is Not Compromise.

Unity is a deep heart agreement. It is not compromise but surrender. That is an important distinction. Our modern culture has preached compromise for so long that it has seeped into our churches. As Christians, we can have so much more. Compromise is going against your heart – your soul, your will, your conscience – for the sake of the other person. It feels icky. It feels like losing. Unity, on the other hand, demands that both of you honor your hearts for the sake of the Lord. Unity feels good. It feels like victory. Compromise tears down. Unity build up.

I come out of an abusive background. I was torn down all the time. My heart and my desires were mocked, ridiculed and trampled on. Since I’ve been released from the abuse, I have really struggled with this because I thought it was anti-Christian to honor my heart. It seemed so worldly, sinful and selfish. This study has really shown me that I was wrong. God loves me and He WANTS me to honor my heart – once it has been purified through prayer and transformation. That is His plan and His design. A loving husband will honor my heart as well. He will wait until we have unity because unity is God’s confirmation on our plans. God is good.

3. Unity is an Assurance and a Promise

In marriage, the couple is joined together for the purpose of traveling one path through life. In the natural, divorce makes sense. I know I have changed and grown a lot in my life already – and I’m only 42. In the natural, it is preposterous to expect my partner to grow and change the exact same ways that I do. God’s promise of unity is the assurance that the couple He has joined together will be able to dwell together as one. The pursuit of unity prevents strife, disagreements and divorce.

4. Lack of Unity is a Sign

Back in Genesis, we are told that God created woman because it is not good for man to be alone. Elsewhere in the bible, we are also told that our human heart is deceptive. I know I can justify and convince myself of just about anything if I try hard enough. When I’m attached to one particular outcome, I can twist things to justify my desire. This is our human nature. We all have it. This is where unity comes in. Where there is a lack of unity, it is a sign that one of you is out of step with God. This is a HUGE blessing. It is a giant STOP sign warning you that further prayer is needed.

Husbands, respect your wives. Wives, submit unto your husbands. A wise husband will respect what his wife says because he knows God works through her. A wise wife will submit to her husband because she knows God works through him. Both are equally dependent on the other and rely on the other to confirm that their desires really are of the Lord.

5. Unity is a Witness

John 17:23 says “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” The NIV translates “made perfect in one” as “brought to complete unity.” When we dwell together in unity, we are proving the gospel to be true. How many married couples do you know? How often do they fight? When you commit to the pursuit of unity, fights rarely happen. When you don’t agree about a course of action, pray until you do. Peace is preserved through the pursuit of unity. We show through the pursuit of unity that we do not have a dry lifeless religion of rules but a vibrant relationship with the Living God.

6. Unity is a Blessing

Psalm 133 is one of those short little Psalms but it packs a punch. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” The ointment that ran down Aaron’s beard is the oil of anointing of God. The pursuit of unity is the pursuit of God’s anointing on our actions. When we pursue unity, God commands the blessing.

7. Unity is Love

Colossians 3:14 says, “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” The NIV translates this as “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Love for each other and love for the Lord binds you together in unity. When you have love, you want peace more than you want your own way. This will drive you to prayer and drive you to unity.

As you can see, the unity ceremony is far from a marketing ploy concocted by some candle company! Your wedding vows describe what you are committing to – one path for life. Your unity candle ceremony describes how you will uphold those vows – pursuing unity through the Lord.

In the rest of the series, I will share some real-life examples of unity at work – and what happens when it doesn’t and we’ll look at the biblical symbolism of the candle. We’ll also delve into what the bible says about sand – the other popular type of unity ceremony.

Click here to go to part two of The Biblical Meaning of the Christian Unity Ceremony.

Click here to go to part three – a discussion of Unity Sand or Unity Candles.

Liz About Liz

After getting married in 2008, I realized how much I loved planning the wedding, making the invitations, flowers and decorations. Marrying my love for the internet with my love for all things bridal and floral was a natural fit. The end result is this website. When I'm not writing about weddings, you will probably find me in my garden or reading the latest Christian fiction book.

Comments

  1. Some Bride says:

    It’s pretty much a given how God wants unity when it comes to marriage, but this doesn’t tell me anything about the unity CANDLE ceremony.

    • Thank you “Some Bride” for sharing your thoughts. While it may be a given to you, there are a lot of Christians that don’t know this. I spent several years in a church which taught that wives submit. Period. No matter what. In other words, wives should ignore what God shows them when it contradicts their husband. This teaching is dangerous and leads to abuse – in higher rates than the secular world. I feel it is important to teach what unity really is.
      That is the purpose of this article – the biblical foundation of unity – not the ceremony itself – which is why I didn’t use “Candle” in the name of the article.
      Thank you again and have a blessed day.

  2. Katrise37 says:

    Hi Liz!
    Thank you for the article! It was beautiful. I do have a question, tho. I’ve recently heard about the unity sand as an option. What are your thoughts on this? From what I’ve read, it’s symbolic, because once the sands are combined, they can not be separated. I thought that was beautiful, as well. The unity candle gets blown out, but the sands are combined forever. Thoughts?

    • Hi Katrise, Thank you for comment! I did another study article on the symbolism of sand and candles in the bible. Here is the link to that one. I hadn’t thought about the symbolism of the sand merging and I do see that. Hmm. I may be adding more parts to my series!

  3. Jerry Sorrow says:

    While I agree unity is vital in a Christian Wedding where do we find examples of a Wedding ceremony in the 1st Century Church, do we ever see Paul, or Peter, or any other disciple of Christ perform a wedding. In fact from Paul’s writing we see a marriage is consummated in the physical sense not in taking vows, exchanging rings, or even the unity candles; in fact the exchange of rings also speaks of two becoming one.
    Does not the modern ceremony not draw from both Old Covenant Jewish traditions as well as from later Roman tradition which was much more pagan in nature. The wedding industry in Japan capitalizes on the pomp of the ceremony of bring in truckloads of money while most of the wedding itself is religious tradition having nothing to do with biblical New Testament Christianity.

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