2008-04-05 - Unity versus Uniformity
Ephesians 4:2 (NIV) Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
The editorials in my small town North Carolina newspaper can be downright humorous. The latest and greatest debate is over selling alcohol in restaurants. Christians, non-Christians, atheist and agonistics seems to all disagree with each other. The Christians have resorted to calling both the other Christians and non-Christians hypocrites. It must really sadden the heart of God, when fellow believers debate with each other, in a public forum, over an issue that is really not essential - and certainly not a "spiritual" or even "religious" issue. (Just a side note here, I certainly am not pro-alcohol. I have seen it wreak havoc with families.)
Meldenius' advice is good: "In all things essential, unity. In all things non-essential, liberty. In all things, charity." In other words, in the essentials of Christianity we should have unity; in the non-essentials, freedom; and in all things, love for one another. God did not call the church - or even Christians - to be uniform, but rather unified.
In today's verse, Paul is telling the believers to be humble, gentle and patient with one another. This, in turn, will promote peace among Christ followers. It seems to me that much too often today, Christians will latch onto a moral issue, and then that is all they focus upon. They get all wrapped up in a non-essential issue, and sometimes rant and rave about how their position is the only correct position, and that they are right and all others are wrong and rebellious heathens. Where is the love? Oh, how that must pain God.
Jesus said it best, when asked by the religious leaders, "what is the greatest commandment?" He replied, "Love God and love people." Matthew 22:34-40 (My paraphrase).
I can't find a single place in the Bible where God calls us to be uniform. But I can see the calling to unity. He calls us to be one body, and to have one unified love for Him and each other. Don't let spiritual pride blind you into one or two issues that are divisive among believers, and equally bad - because the non-believers that are watching - to think and say, "see, those Christians have no unity. They don't even agree with each other."
Most churches "look" different from another. My church may have drums, sprinkle babies and do communion with grape juice, with plastic cups and stale wafers. Yours may be completely different. Like a same Christmas present wrapped with two different wrappings. On the outside, they look different, but on the inside, they are the same. They have the unity of the essentials (the gift), but not an external uniformity (the wrapping). The unity of loving God and each other, the unity of believing the essentials such as God is three in one, Jesus' deity and substituionary death for us that we may live eternally.
Augustine said, "Love God, and do what you please. If you love, what He wants will please you."
I like that.