Speaking Of Life 2009 | Unity, Not Uniformity
My wife and I have three children: two daughters and one son. If you have children and if you’re like me, you have probably said something like this to your spouse: “I don’t know where she gets that trait; it must be from you.”
You may have noticed that one child has great athletic ability, and another one hates all types of sports. One child likes to read and avoids crowds, and the other could care less about books but enjoys a good party. And you think, “How could these children have the same parents, the same upbringing, yet be so different?”
The diversity within a family is a small example of the diversity you find in the church, and the way you navigate these differences is very much the same.
The book of First Corinthians tells us about a church that was diverse. Greeks, Romans, and Asians lived in Corinth, and some say this diversity contributed to a “factious” or contentious spirit which carried over to the church in Corinth. The apostle Paul addresses these issues and appeals to the church for everyone to get along:
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose (I Cor. 1: 10, NRSV).
Apparently, there had been some disagreements in the church over whose baptism was better; Paul’s or Apollo’s. This disagreement sounds very much like how people today talk about their favorite sports teams. But Paul cuts through the particulars of their argument with the bottom line—be united in mind and purpose.
That’s how we handle diversity within our families. We agree on certain absolutes and family values, like respect and honor. Our family’s purpose is to show this respect and honor by making allowances for our differences.
For example, I love the beach, and on our family vacations, I could spend every single day at the beach. But when we go on vacation, we don’t spend every day at the beach. Instead, we try to include activities that are important to each person in our family. We honor our differences, everyone has a good time, and the family is unified.
Likewise, in the church, we hold certain truths as absolute, such as God’s great love for every human being. Yet we can “agree to disagree” about minor points and opinions that are often shaped by our experiences and our history. We don’t browbeat people into feeling they have to change their opinions to be loved and accepted.
We see the church as a family, and we focus on our unity in Christ. Even Jesus himself did not try to change the opinions of those he encountered. He showed respect for all, setting the example that being human makes every person valuable and worthy of love.
The Corinthian church shows us that unity doesn’t need uniformity.
May you grow in your ability to love and accept people where they’re at, communicating each person’s intrinsic value.
I’m Heber Ticas, Speaking of Life.