We recently had the privilege of visiting Chicago, IL for the first time. Many things can be said about Chicago; the food, the architecture; the weather; the traffic; the people. There is a great amount of diversity in seemingly everything. Just about every culture and people group are represented in the city and surrounding area.
Seeing the great diversity in one area has me thinking about the Church. As we work around the world, we get to see the Body of Christ in its many variations of culture, styles, personalities, and theologies. I sense that most Americans think that the Church looks and acts like them, or at least should. The reality is that we can be united in Christ while celebrating our differences.
A diverse group
One day, the Church (big C meaning universal Church), will be made up of people from every tribe and tongue (Revelation 7:9). What an incredible gathering that will be when we get to see the Lord high and lifted up, and the greatness of His creativity in creating such a diverse group of people.
God made every one of us unique. We have some commonalities with others, but in total, we are who we are and no one else is exactly like us. Therefore, we should not expect everyone to act, believe, or think as we do.
The Body of Christ includes not just a variety of skin colors and languages, we also have a diversity of practices. The key is that we all believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to eternity with the Father in Heaven. When we agree on Christ, we can then agree to disagree on the minor things.
Take, for example, the style of worship. We recently visited a church that had a worship experience that is different from my preferred way of worshiping. While I was not fully engaged because of the style, there were many people who were fully encountering the Lord in that service. In all likelihood, they would struggle in a service that fits my preferences. Neither is wrong, they’re just different.
Strength in diversity
Too often, we see these differences as reasons to separate from others. Sometimes, we will even declare that another group is not Christian because of the differences. We need to be diligent in practicing sound doctrine, but, I dare say too often, some cry heresy when it really is just an alternate interpretation or preference.
An astronaut is able to give perspective and insight to someone who believes the earth is flat. The flat-earther may not be convinced that the world is round, but I’m sure that they will not convince the astronaut that it is flat. There is absolute truth, and we can find it in Scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit. There are also different perspectives and interpretations of positions. Some things we will not fully know until we are in eternity with the Lord.
What I have found is that when I engage with other believers of different streams, I am challenged to go deeper in my relationship with the Lord. They encourage me to see beyond my current understanding. That doesn’t mean that I change my beliefs or practices, but it challenges me to see God as bigger than I had previously seen Him and hopefully to know Him better.
I encourage believers to get outside of their circle; to meet with believers from other denominations, and read books by people that you may not agree with. Don’t adopt everything that you read or hear without testing it, including from your home church. Too often, we value the sayings of men more than going to the source of Truth. We need to test everything through the Holy Spirit and His Word, the Holy Bible.
Discomfort is expected
As we step outside of our circle, we should expect it to be uncomfortable. We may hear or see things that don’t fit what we think is how God works. Some of it will be of man, and therefore, not of God. Other things may be the Lord wanting to teach you more about Himself. The problem with shutting out everything we are uncomfortable with is that we will likely miss the things God wants to show us.
Jesus didn’t make life comfortable for His disciples when He walked the earth. We shouldn’t expect to be comfortable either. Get out of your comfort zone. There is strength to be gained when we walk through the discomfort.
Seek opportunities to be stretched in your faith. Ask the Lord to show you aspects of Himself that you haven’t seen before. He is so much bigger than we will ever comprehend or even be able to wrap our head around. And when He shows you more of Himself, embrace it.
Together in unity
Dallas and I are very different people and yet we are united as a couple. Our marriage would be quite boring if we were exactly alike. She has strengths where I am weak, and vice versa. Together we are more than the sum of the parts.
Similarly, Christians are different in many ways. When we join together in Christ, we can do more than when we remain separated. One may bring a deeper knowledge of Scripture and another a broader experience of the Holy Spirit. Together, we can know and experience the fullness of God.
When we know the Truth, we are able to be free from the bonds of judgement and separation from other believers. Jesus prayed in John 17 that all believers would live in unity. We can unite around Jesus Christ, even as we maintain our diversity.
When we see our diversity as strength, we can come together in unity for the purpose of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. Our love for one another should outweigh all of our preferences. Together in Christ we can be one.
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