The countdown is on. Days are getting cooler; nights are getting longer. This is the last week of summer.
To be more positive about it, we are just one week away from the best season of the year: autumn.
Beautiful colours, fall harvest (including apple pie - enough of the pumpkin spice!), crunchy leaves, warm sweaters, and cozy blankets. No more mosquitoes or other bitey things. Allergy season is over. A new season of winter sport begins. It’s a wonderful time of the year! Who doesn’t love autumn?
Diversity is a beautiful thing. This doesn’t apply only to the seasons but also to people. Thankfully, we are not all clones of one another. We need the mathematicians and the musicians. We need the philosophers and the artists. We need the scientists and the novelists. The full dynamic range of God’s creative handiwork is beyond the scope of any one personality or temperament to explore. It is best discovered and shared together.
This is also true of the dynamics within the Body of Christ - the church. Thankfully, we each bring a different set of skills and perspectives to the dynamic of the community of faith. There is great diversity and yet there is also great unity.
Unity expressed through diversity is only possible when we share the same object of our faith: The holy, creator God. Unfortunately, it is a human tendency to create systems and structures that we believe are “right.” Since they work for us, we assume they should work for everybody. When that (inevitably) fails, we assume “they” are wrong. Harm is done to the relationship. Unity is damaged.
Diversity does not threaten unity. In fact, unity is best expressed through diversity. What kills unity is uniformity: assuming everyone has to be just like me, just like “us.” Assuming autumn is the only “good” season. Assuming that our system and structure is THE way to do it. Anything else is left wanting.
Scripture does not affirm uniformity. As the Apostle Paul taught the early church how to be the Body of Christ together, he used different words to describe the same function depending on who the readers were. Those who were responsible for spiritual oversight of the Body were sometimes called “Elders” and sometimes called “Presbyters” depending on whether Paul was addressing a Body that was in a Jewish culture or a Greek/Roman culture. Same function. Same responsibility. Different words. Diversity in unity.
And this is the nature of faith. We do believe there is ONE faith and that those who subscribe to this ONE faith share the following in common: the same Object of our faith (the triune God), the same Nature of our faith (for example, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ), and shared - but not identical - Expressions of our faith (how we gather to worship, the language and vocabulary we use, our preferences in music, etc.).
Did you notice that ONE faith is an acronym: O - object, N - nature, and E - expression? This is the foundation for unity in diversity. If we share the same convictions about the Object and Nature of our faith, we will be very comfortable enjoying the diversity of the Expressions of our faith. After all, the culture of the Body of Christ in Africa is very different from the culture of the Body of Christ in Asia or Latin America. Yet we all worship the same God (object of our faith) and embrace the same truths (nature of our faith) about our salvation, the Scriptures, the Son of God, and other key doctrines. Since diversity is part of God’s created order, why shouldn’t there also be room for diversity in His Body?
The “autumn is best” is a minority position. I know that. But that’s OK. It doesn’t mean the fans of the other seasons are wrong - it means we are diverse.
Many who love God with the fullness of their heart prefer to express that through acts of service. Others preach sermons. Others sing. Others define theology. Others care for the disenfranchised. They are all expressions of faith. They are all acts of worship of the One God who created us all. They are all forms of unity. They are all rooted in ONE faith.