Friday, July 25, 2008

Unity In the Midst of Diversity

A common question regarding Christianity surrounds the issue of unity. If Christianity is true, why are there so many doctrinal differences? If we claim that God exist and that He is knowable and has revealed true information about himself in the Bible, then why do many Christians disagree about many specifics of our worldview?

Jesus prayed in John 17:23 for the unity of all believers and He says that our unity will let the world know that He was sent from God and that God loves the world. So unbelievers and believers alike rightly ask where is this unity? However, they mistake unity to mean uniformity of thinking and doctrine.

At the same time, the same people who claim that for Christianity to be true there must be uniformity do not wish for a moment to ascribe to any belief system that tells them how to think about every little thing. They are the same to hold the mindset that the church ought not to control their thinking. So is it really uniformity they want to see? Or is it what Colossians 3:14 proclaims that over all virtues we must put on love which binds us all together in perfect unity. Unity comes from loving one another not from dictating how one thinks.

Usually if everyone has the exact same response people believe it to be coached and not authentic. We know we are all unique and we think differently about things. One can notice that a car is bright red and the other notices there were three children in the back seat. Both are correct, but different things stood out to them. The problem is when they take that perspective and turn it into an absolute instead of a piece of the pie. For instance, all cars are red, or all cars must have three children in the back seat. Sometimes a truth applies across the board and sometimes it does not. I Corinthians 13 explains that now we know in part and then we shall know fully. On earth our knowledge is partial and not complete knowledge. The more our knowledge lines up with reality of what is the more we know, but even then we still don’t see the whole picture as God does.

Thus, unity is not a matter of uniformity of thinking, but a matter of being bond together by love despite our different manners of thought. And yes, this unity by love is something that is also a process that is being worked out in us and is not fully manifested in our lives. For we are all at different levels of relationship with God--growing into deeper levels all the time and the deeper we go in our walk with God the more love will prevail.

This does not mean that our thinking is not to conform to God’s truth for we can know and agree on many things that are central to Christianity, but that even with those foundational agreements there are specifics that are not nailed down and concrete in uniformity.

However, on the other hand as we mature in Christ we will become united in mind and thought as well, not because a church dictates how to think, but because we have relationship with Him who is Truth. Ephesians 4 says that God has given people gifted as leaders to the church to equip the church until she reaches unity of the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then, it says we will no longer be tossed too and fro by every wind and doctrine. Meaning, that as the Church enters maturity, even doctrine will become solid. One day all will culminate to be a glorified Church made ready for Christ. Still that unity that comes into being will be something greater than uniformity.

Again our whole desire for unity shows that there is One who brings unity to diversity. We do not wish to live in a world of rampant diversity without any unity, nor do we wish to live in a world of strict uniformity and no creative diversity. In the Triune God we find both unity and diversity and that is why He is highly qualified to bring about unity without loosing diversity in our lives. The community believers have with each other and with God joins the diverse parts to effectuate a unified whole complete with our own creative gifts and talents.

No comments: