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Accepting Diversity

Those who depend on obeying the Law live under a curse... the Law has
nothing to do with faith (Paul). If [faith] is alone and includes no
actions, it is dead (James).

     We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different
functions. In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union
with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one
body.

    Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one
body, even though it is made up of different parts. God put every different
part in the body just as he wanted it to be... There would not be a body if
it were only one part! There are many parts, but one body.

    What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror... What I know now is
only partial...
Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of
these is love.

    So, then, let us stop judging one another... aim at those things that
bring peace and that help to strengthen one another.

    And now I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved
you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then
everyone will know that you are my disciples.

    Accept one another, then, for the glory of God, as Christ has accepted
you.

    Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, because love
cancels innumerable sins.  Be hospitable to one another without complaining.
Whatever gift each of you may have received, use it in service to one
another, like good stewards dispensing the grace of God in its varied forms.

(Galatians 3: 10, GNB; James 2: 17, GNB; Romans 12: 4-5, GNB; 1 Corinthians
12: 12-13, 18-20, GNB; 1 Corinthians 13: 12-13, GNB; Romans 14:13 and 19,
GNB; John 13: 34-35, GNB; Romans 15: 7, GNB; 1 Peter 4: 8-10, NEB)

~~~

Snoopy was typing a manuscript, up on his kennel. Charlie Brown: 'What are
you doing, Snoopy?' Snoopy: 'Writing a book about theology.' Charlie Brown:
'Good grief. What's its title?' Snoopy (thoughtfully): 'Have You Ever
Considered You Might Be Wrong?' This points up a central Christian dictum:
God's truth is very much bigger than our little systems.

    Our Lord often made the point that God's lathering extended to all
people everywhere. He bluntly targeted the narrow nationalism of his own
people, particularly in stories like the good Samaritan.  Here the 'baddie'
is a hero. It's a wonderful parable underlining the necessity to love God
through loving your neighbour -- and one's neighbour is the person who needs
help, whoever he or she may be. But note that love of neighbour is more than
seeking their conversion, then adding a few acts of mercy to others in 'our
group'. Jesus' other summary statements about the meaning of religion and
life in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 involve justice too: attempting to
right the wrongs my neighbour suffers.

    'Ethnocentrism' is the glorification of my group. What often happens in
practice is a kind of spiritual apartheid: I'll do my thing and you do
yours -- over there.  Territoriality ('my place -- keep out!') replaces
hospitality ('my place -- you're welcome!').  I like Paul's commendation in
Philippians 2:19-21 of Timothy 'who really cares' when everyone else was
concerned with their own affairs.

    Sometimes our non-acceptance of others' uniqueness has jealousy or
feelings of inferiority at their root. You have probably heard the little
doggerel, 'I hate the guys/that criticise/and minimise/the other guys/whose
enterprise/has made them rise/above the guys/that criticise/and minimise...'

    In our global village we cannot avoid relating to 'different others'.
Indeed, marriage is all about two different people forming a unity in spite
of their differences. Those differences can of course be irritating -- for
example when a 'lark' marries an 'owl' (but the Creator made both to adorn
his creation).

    Even within yourself there are diverse personalities. If you are a
'right brain' person, why not develop an interest in 'left brain' thinking?

    The Lord reveals different aspects of his truth to different branches of
the church. What a pity, then, to make our part of the truth the whole
truth. Martin Buber had the right idea when he said that the truth is not so
much in human beings as between them. An author dedicated his book to
'Stephen... who agrees with me in nothing, but is my friend in everything.'
Just as an orchestra needs every instrument, or a fruit salad is tastier
with a great variety of fruits, so we are enriched through genuine
fellowship with each other.

    A Christian group matures when it recognises it may have something to
learn from other groups. The essence of immaturity is not knowing that one
doesn't know, and therefore being unteachable.  No one denomination or
church has a monopoly on the truth. How was God able to get along for 1500,
1600 or 1900 years without this or that church? Differences between
denominations or congregations -- or even within them -- reflect the rich
diversity and variety of the social, cultural and temperamental backgrounds
from which those people come. But they also reflect the character of God
whose grace is 'multi-coloured'.

    If you belong to Christ and I belong to Christ, we belong to each other
and we need each other.  Nothing should divide us.

~~~

Diversity is a hallmark of life, an intrinsic feature of living systems in
the natural world.  The demonstration and celebration of this diversity is
an endless rite. Look at the popularity of museums, zoos, aquariums and
botanic gardens. The odder the exhibit, the more different it is from the
common and familiar forms around us, the more successful it is likely to be.
Nature does not tire of providing oddments for people who look for them.
Biologists have already formally classified 1.7 million species.  As many as
30 to 40 million more may remain to be classified.

David Ehrenfeld, 'Thirty million cheers for diversity'


We cannot easily forgive another for not being ourselves.
                                                             Emerson


I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so
following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.

Shylock, The Merchant of Venice


Truth is what people kill each other for.

Herbert Read


After three days of discussion at Marburg, the Reformers agreed on fourteen
articles, but could not be reconciled on the fifteenth concerning the
Eucharist.  This led to a division between the Lutheran and Reformed
churches which continues to this day.  It is reported that when Luther
refused to shake hands with Zwingli in farewell, the Swiss reformer left
with tears in his eyes. His attitude throughout had been most brotherly.

Arthur Gum, Ulrich Zwingli, the unknown reformer'


If Jesus ever came down to earth again, the Spaniards would dance with joy,
the Italians would start singing, the French would discuss whether his visit
was timely and the Germans? Well, they would present him with a schedule.

Cardinal Sin, of Manila


Different groups within the Christian church are at odds with one another
because their models of the Christian life, its beginnings and its fullness,
are so diverse. One group of genuine believers can never remember a
conscious conversion to faith in Christ; another insists that a
datable experience of being 'born again' is essential; a third says that a
second distinct experience of 'baptism of the Holy Spirit' is necessary for
Christian maturity. When we 'test the spirits' in the lives of
representatives among these groups, we often find an equal level of
spiritual vitality -- or deadness! -- in each sector.  The Christian life is
being offered in diverse packages, but what is inside is the same -- newness
of life in Christ.  Nonetheless, the different groups enjoying this life are
readily offended by another's packages. One person's piety is often
another's poison.

Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life


Inevitably, law reduces things to a common denominator. Under grace,
everything is completely different.  Individual difference is encouraged..
Each Christian becomes an authentic witness, since each has their own
experience of Christ, incommensurable with that of any other person, since
all genuinely personal experiences are Individual and unique. Each has his
or her own irreplaceable contribution to the life of the whole.  Each has an
instrument to play, a gift to offer to the harmony of the whole orchestra.

Stephen Neill, On the Ministry


We can no longer doubt that there are many different expressions of
Christianity within the New Testament. These patterns... did [not] always
complement each other; on the contrary, they not infrequently clashed,
sometimes fiercely...  The language forms were different, often so different
that the words of one believer could not serve as the vehicle of faith of
another, or even for himself in different circumstances... So, if we have
been convinced of the unity of first-century Christianity, we can hardly be
less convinced of its diversity.

James D.G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament


[The church of the next century must be] a church which allows considerable
diversity of outlook and expression and does not insist on rigid uniformity.
We should not be afraid of diversity within the church. The fact is that
people have different temperaments, and these require a variety of
expression of faith and worship. But there is another more profound reason
for pluralism within the church.  This is that no one of us and no one point
of view can comprehend the fullness of the mystery of God. We know him only
in part, and we can see him only from a perspective which is formed by our
historical, cultural and sociological heritage as well as by our personal
experience.  The pluralism within the church is far from being a simply
negative thing and need not be divisive.

Archbishop Keith Raynor


'The very idea of diversities compatible with communion. . . or of the
sufficient minimum of doctrine to be held in common if unity is to be
preserved... is the object of all my research.' It should also be an object
of vital interest to all Christians. The diversity which always has existed
in the church is still, theoretically, valued and not merely tolerated.
Where differences did not inhibit communication by leading to an isolated
sectarianism, communion was not sundered; folk lived out, and died for, the
one faith before it found uniform expression in creeds and conciliar
definitions. If the same faith is being lived, varying formulations of it
(which may have equally respectable apostolic origins) must be reconcilable.

Yves Congar, Diversity and Communion


With regard to the question of a 'minimal creed', what might it affirm?
Here's a suggestion: We affirm: 1. One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; 2.
Jesus Christ as my Saviour, my Lord and my God;  3. The scriptures as
authoritative in all matters of faith and conduct; 4. Love for, acceptance
of and full fellowship with all who thus confess their allegiance to Christ
through Christ; 5. Our commission to continue the holistic ministry of
Christ in evangelism and social action to a lost world.

Rowland Croucher, Recent Trends Among Evangelicals


Jacques Ellul, noting that in many of the conflicts of our time sincere
Christians are to be found on both sides, welcomes this fact, for he claims
that their Christianity can unite them across political and partisan
divisions, so lessening the hostility of those divisions and preparing the
way for eventual reconciliation.

John Macquarrie, The Humility of God


    Jesus brings together Jew and Gentile and from them both produces one
new kind of person... It is not that Jesus makes all the Jews into Gentiles,
or all the Gentiles into Jews; he produces a new kind of person out of both,
although they remain Gentiles and Jews. Chrysostom, the famous preacher of
the early church, says that it is as if one should melt down a statue of
silver and a statue of lead, and the two should come out gold. The unity
which Jesus achieves is not achieved by blotting out all racial and national
characteristics; it is achieved by making all people of all nations into
Christians...  Christianity produces people who are friends with each other
because they are friends with God.

William Barclay, Galatians and Ephesians

~~~

Lord God our Creator, when you made all creatures great and small in their
rich diversity you were so delighted. And when you made human beings (in
your image) to be so diverse, they must represent somehow the rich diversity
of the Godhead itself. Lord, our Redeemer, when Jesus Christ died to draw
all unto him, it was in prospect of heaven being populated by people from
every tribe, language, nation and race.

Lord, help me to appreciate all this richness; may my theology not be too
eccentric, peripheral to the central concern of the gospel which is to
increase love for God and others. So teach me how to stay close to you,
close to humankind, and make it the goal of my life to bring God and
humankind together. Help me to move from law (with its tendency to reduce
everything to a common denominator) to grace (where individual differences
are celebrated).

May my view of myself be conditioned more by my being bound up in life with
others, rather than my separateness from them.

Help me to be big enough to be all things to all people, to help in their
saving to keep the bridges between me and others in good repair...


Cure thy children's warring madness
Bend our pride to thy control;
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss thy kingdom's goal.

H.E. Fosdick


Gather us in, thou love that fillest all; Gather our rival faiths within thy
fold. Rend each one's temple-veil and bid it fall, That we may know that
thou hast been of old;
           Gather us in. Gather us in: we worship only Thee;
In varied names we stretch a common hand; In diverse forms a common soul we
see; In many ships we seek one spirit-land;
           Gather us in. Each one sees one colour of thy rainbow-light, Each
looks upon one tint and calls it heaven; Thou are the fullness of our
partial sight; We are not perfect till we find the seven;
Gather us in.

G.E. Matheson

~~~

A Benediction

May God be merciful to us, and bless us;
look on us with kindness, so that the whole world may know your will;
so that nations may know your salvation.

May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you!

Psalm 67:1-2 (GNB)

From Rowland Croucher, ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys, Albatross/Lion,
Chapter 13

 
rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland