I’m watching our birdbath. A blue jay just landed, enjoyed a quick sip of water, and flew on. On occasion the jays will take a bath but normally they just come and go. Robins, on the other hand, love to jump in and give themselves - and everything within a metre - a full rinse. They tuck their heads under the water, spread their wings, and then shake their entire bodies. After two or three robins we have to refill the birdbath. They are our favourite birds to watch. Check out this video on YouTube (from someone else's birdbath).
And then there are the mourning doves. I have no idea of their relative IQ on birdie-intelligence tests, but they don’t appear to have the sharpest beaks in the feeder - if you know what I mean. They fly to the edge, stick a foot in and then pull it out. They will do that a few times and then waddle into the middle of the bath and squat. And stay there. No swishing of water, no spreading of wings. The only thing that gets wet is their feet and belly. Once the water is fully saturated with their birddom they begin to drink. Yeah, drinking bath water. Not the sharpest beaks in the feeder.
We love birds. Over the years we have had canaries, budgies, and even a blue-hooded Amazon parrot (the kind from the equator, not the online store founded by Jeff Bezos). Now we also watch cardinals, jays, finches of all kinds, sparrows, nuthatches, woodpeckers - the list goes on and on.
If you have the patience, you will begin to see the behavioural differences between the species. If you are really patient, you will begin to see the difference between individual birds within a species. For example, we dubbed one of the blue jays who visits us as “clothesline jay.” His chirp sounds like someone pulling a clothesline that has a rusty pulley. Another jay is much more sing-songie. Yellow finches sound like bathtub squeaky toys and seldom visit the birdbath, but house finches regularly do.
All this brings two things to mind. First, Jesus’ reminder that our Father has His eyes on the the smallest of birds and is aware when even one of them falls from the sky. How much more then, since we are God’s image bearers, does God care for us? (Matthew 10:29) I have a friend who loves to sail and named his boat “Sparrow” for that very reason. As the Gospel song says, “His eye is on the sparrow.”
The other observation is that each of these critters is unique. Not only is there a vast spectrum of bird species, birds from within the same species have unique qualities. Every budgie we have owned has had its own personality. “Clothesline jay” is different from the other jays that visit our backyard. Yet they are all birds. Part of the joy of watching these backyard visitors is seeing the diversity each one brings. No two birds are identical.
This is what makes a community - whether it is made up of birds or people - rich. No two of us are identically the same. God has given each of us different strengths, different idiosyncrasies, and different passions. That’s a good thing! You don’t want to hear me singing. I can’t draw a straight line to save my life. Thankfully, we have musicians and artists amongst us who can do those things. We each bring a different skill set to the group. We are stronger together.
The common denominator, though, is not our diversity. It is not the truth that no one person can do it all. It is not “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.” It is not uniformity. It is not being better together.
What truly makes us strong, what defines and breathes life into our unity is the Spirit of God. Since we are God’s image-bearers, we all bring diverse skill sets to the community of faith. But the cohesiveness, the bonding, the caregiving to and for one another is the work of the Holy Spirit through each of us.
Paul instructed the church in Ephesus to guard the unity that was theirs in Christ, and to guard the truth that is the Gospel. Unity is not the same as “putting up with” someone. Biblical unity expresses itself through a love deep enough and mature enough to even address beliefs or behaviours that are contrary to God Himself. That’s why Paul emphasized “speaking the truth in love” as central to the maturing of our faith - so we ALL build up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:1-16).
Each of us is unique. Yet we are all similar. We share the same needs. We worship the same God who has redeemed us, reconciled us to Himself, and places us into community so we can learn and mature together. Each of us has a travelled a different journey and had different experiences. The process of growth will be unique for each of us. We share the common end: that we may represent Christ well.