Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I think one of my 'life messages' is the conviction that we are created with different personalities, gifts and ways of doing things. The diversity is very much a part of God's plan, and we are intended to learn how to live out this diversity in unity.
Paul talks about each of us being different parts of the body. For me, that thought is very liberating. It allows me to be different than you, to notice different things, to respond in different ways, to have a different purpose on this earth.
That means I might fit in a different mold than you. I will be more comfortable with some people than others. I will align myself with a different group of people (church denomination, political party, or interest group) than you will.
We tend to see how this all works within the notion of spiritual gifts, but not necessarily in large areas like theology or politics, although the basis is the same. We see things differently, and make our decisions accordingly.
In the past, I might have looked down on (as 'less spiritual') those who voted for a different political party or attended a different church than me. I would have justified such judgmentalism on 'theology'--my understanding of God's truth. But more recently I have begun to realize that even our understanding of scripture is based on how we perceive the world. I might jump up and down and say my theology is 'Bible-based', but in reality it is based on how my upbringing and culture understand the Biblical text. Understanding the text based on the point of view of the original hearers is very important when forming our understanding of it today. It was written by people from a specific cultural setting, so it must be understood in the light of that culture. In the same way, I need to admit that my present understanding of scripture is colored by my culture. Even if I claim to take the Bible 'literally', in reality my history influences how I read it—what I put greater emphasis on, how I believe it speaks to me, what portions I read.
So, there is a wonderful diversity in the body of Christ. Now I realize, sometimes this is more division than diversity. But that is a result of thinking there is a final, complete, 'right' way of seeing everything, and we can attain that in this lifetime.
Division comes when I think I have the final word from God, and anything else is heresy. Diversity comes when I see that God has given me a piece of the whole pie, and you a different piece.
Division is when I fight for my perspective, and belittle yours. Diversity comes when I value you as much as I value me.
Division says I only want to hang out with people who think like me, look like me, act like me. Diversity says I can see the nature of God in someone who sees things differently than I do, and I celebrate that.
More on one of the practical expressions of diversity in my next post.

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