Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Unity in Diversity

The Biblical ideal for the Christian church is unity in diversity (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16). Different people with different gifts, working together to achieve one purpose. But in modern times we seem to be doing everything we can to avoid this.  We divide up into factions against the clear teaching of Scripture (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:21-23; Ephesians 4:1-6). And while there are issues of substance, much of it seems to be over personality and giftings. We see teaching churches, evangelistic church, churches oriented toward community. We see churches that are thoughtful and historically deep, lively and emotional, or restrained and commonsensical. I am forced to wonder if the real difference is a difference of principle or a difference of character. I am also forced to wonder if each of these types of Christian do not lose something by not regularly interacting with each other. Is this not what we really need, people who are different from us to knock off our rough edges and to help us see the aspects of the faith we might otherwise miss out on? And in doing so, to keep each the other from running to extremes.

But the present divided state of the church does not look like it will go away soon. How then should we deal with the present situation? We need to work to accept those with different approaches and gifts and to learn to appreciate them, not force them to accept our views or way of doing things (Romans 14:1; 15:7; 8:33,34). Now I do believe that there are limits to what we can accept (Jude 3; Galatians 1:8,9; 1 John 4:1-3). But we need to be careful of making blanket judgments on every  minor matter that people disagree with us on  (Romans 14:10; James 4:11,12; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5). One thing that is valuable is to try to learn where those different from us are coming from and to understand what is valuable in their perspective. And we can welcome and learn from those who do not approach things the same way. Instead of trying to require everyone to strictly conform in every particular. This seems easier than allowing people freedom to express their strong points, but it is impoverishing to the life of the church. We were meant to provoke and encourage each other to grow into the people God wants us to be (Hebrews 10:24,25; 12:12,13; Colossians 2:19). It is easier to press people into a mold than to let God develop each person into a unique servant of His. But the real disciple is worth producing (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Timothy 2:2; Colossians 1:28,29).  

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