Monday, July 11, 2016

The Differences That Are Not Divisive

It is impossible to read/watch the news without seeing the divisiveness in our world. We are divided by religions, preferences, ideologies, worldviews, and even skin color. The world’s love affair with self-centeredness has everyone wanting to be heard, everyone wanting to be respected, no matter how contrary their viewpoint is from another, or from God for that matter.

As I watch these things, I grow in my admiration for my heavenly Father who reaches into the cesspool of human selfishness, redeems a people for his very own, people eager to do the good works he prepared in advance for us to do,[1] and works through the personal presence of his own Holy Spirit to unite his adopted children into a brotherhood of faith in Jesus Christ.[2]

However, a distinctive quality of what is called, “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”,[3] is that it includes a whole variety of differences that are just as essential as the unity itself. Without the differences, the unity cannot be maintained, and without the unity, the differences would divide and destroy.

The relationship between the differences and the unity is pictured in the metaphor of the human body. It is written in God’s manual for the church, “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”[4]

With this imagery of the church as the body of Christ,[5] we can see how each member of the body is different and distinct from the others, and yet its differences are essential to bring about the good of the one body. Each organ functions differently, but in order to maintain the same health in the whole body.

The relationship between differences and unity in the church comes out very clearly in this passage from God’s word:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.[6]

On one hand, “there are varieties of gifts,” “varieties of service,” and “varieties of activities,” in the church. Just as there must be variety in the parts of our bodies, the church must have this kind of variety.

On the other hand, all this variety in the church comes from, “the same Spirit,” “the same Lord,” and “the same God”. Just as God originally created us in the image and likeness of his Son, it is the same God who created the church as the body of Christ. As Jesus breathed into Adam the breath of life, and he became a living being,[7] so the Holy Spirit is as the breath of God giving life to the body of Christ.

This means that, all the varieties of the gifts are from the same Triune God, and for the same uniting purpose. That purpose is stated here as, “the common good.” As no parts of our bodies can work for their own good separate from the rest of the body, no one in the church is given something to do for their own good alone (although the common good is always for their good).

One of the reasons that churches have so much difficulty honoring God in both their variety and their sameness is that people tend to be too prideful to surrender to doing things God’s way. Pride can tell one person with exceptional talents that they are better than others, while the same pride tells someone else that they deserve to do nothing in the church because they are nothing more than a victim of life circumstances. In both cases, and the entire spectrum between, it is pride that says we have figured out a better way of doing things than what God has ordained.

While we may have hurts and heartaches, sin-problems and sarkiness, bad experiences with churches that emphasis too much variety or too much sameness, and even just a general nervousness about anything that revolves around the Holy Spirit, every believer in Jesus Christ ought to consider what it means to live worthy of our high calling in Jesus Christ as a member of his body.

This will require us to be as different as God has made us as a distinctive member of the body of Christ, and as equally devoted to the health of the whole body of Christ as is Jesus himself. After all, he is our head, and every unique way we are gifted to do ministry is aimed at the same common good. And, if we don’t know our part, we just pray these Scriptures would be fulfilled in us according to God’s will, and follow him as he leads.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Titus 2:1; Ephesians 2:8-10
[2] Ephesians 4:3; I Peter 2:17, 5:9
[3] Ephesians 4:3
[4] I Corinthians 12:20
[5] Romans 12:3-8; I Corinthians 12:27
[6] I Corinthians 12:4-7
[7] Genesis 2:7

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