Unity in Diversity
One of the ways that the church should be different from the world is by having a unity amidst diversity. Unity and diversity are both important goals for the church. Having one or the other is not enough. They both serve to set the church apart from the world. They are both to be prayed and worked for in order to display the glory of God in the church of Jesus Christ.
Have you ever thought about how the glory and nature of God can be more fully reflected in a church that pursues unity amidst diversity because God is himself one and three? God loves unity and diversity because both are inherent to his own nature. We worship and serve one God who exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our skeptical culture will better see and understand this mysterious and beautiful reality when local churches embody the very nature of God by pursuing a unity amidst diversity.
In a culture that is increasingly fractured along racial, economic, and political lines, the church should be a picture of genuine unity. The church should be a place where people unite for the sake of Jesus and his glory. The church should be an alternative to a culture that fights and competes and divides over everything.
The church’s unity is actually part of its evangelism. Jesus prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21). People will be encouraged to believe that Jesus is God’s Son when they see genuine unity in the church.
The apostle Paul says that one of the ways we “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we’ve been called” is to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). An eagerness to maintain unity in the church is one of the ways we live out our calling as Christ-followers. Failing to pursue unity is to not live in a way worthy of Christ.
The church should also be a picture of genuine diversity. Our culture loves diversity. We celebrate the fact that we are a country of immigrants from all over the world. Corporations even offer “diversity training” in order to help their employees appreciate each other’s racial and ethnic differences.
Diversity is a virtue in our culture, but we struggle to live it out. For example, most of us gravitate toward friends who are just like us – people with the same ethnic, economic, and educational background. Just go to your neighborhood Junior High or High School. Why do the white students primarily hang out with other white students? The black students with other black students? The Hispanic students with other Hispanic students? The Asian students with other Asian students? The football players with other football players? The skateboarders with other skateboarders? The musicians with other musicians? Sadly, the same reality is true in offices and neighborhoods and civic clubs all over America. There are, of course, many exceptions. But I think the rule holds true that most of us gravitate toward people that are like us rather than people who are not like us. We like diversity until it comes time to choose our friends.
In the midst of this cultural reality, the church should be a picture of genuine diversity. And not diversity for diversity’s sake. Not diversity in order to meet some kind of corporately mandated quota. Followers of Christ must pursue diversity, must put aside ethnic and cultural differences, in order to unite for the sake of something bigger than themselves.
The glory of God is the goal of diversity in the church. Jesus and his gospel of peace look glorious and powerful and compelling when Christians work toward genuine diversity in the church. The power of the gospel becomes tangible and cannot help but be noticed when people from diverse backgrounds love and serve one another.
Jesus’ love and grace is evident when Christians intentionally pursue relationships in the church with people who are very different than them. Diversity never happens accidentally. God’s power and grace in the gospel is the only thing strong enough to create and sustain it. But God’s people must desire it and work for it and pray for it. Diversity does not just happen.
The banner of Jesus and his glory is meant to fly over people of every nation, race, language, education level, and economic situation. And not just one day when we all get to heaven. It’s meant to fly over local churches here and now. Jesus died to create a unified and diverse church. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:13-14). The blood of Jesus is meant to break down ethnic and racial and economic walls so that “he might create in himself one new man” (v. 15).
Churches that love the cross must love unity and diversity because Jesus died to create a unified and diverse church for the display of his glory (Eph. 3:10). Unity amidst diversity is our goal. We must unite around the gospel of Jesus and celebrate his goodness and grace. And we must unite around the gospel with people who are very different than us and celebrate the uniqueness of every person that God calls to himself.
May Preston Highlands Be both Unified and Diverse, for the Glory of God,