Unity and Uniformity…Two Very Different Things

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Biblical unity is not about agreeing with each other all the time.  In fact, the more I read about the New Testament church in Paul’s letters, the more I see that disagreement played a fairly significant role in the early church and I believe it still does today.  There has always been disagreement in the church.  As long as we “see as in a mirror, dimly”, there will be disagreement in the church.  That disagreement grows us, stretches us, humbles us, and keeps us accountable.  It is a positive thing.  It is not something to be feared.

In that sense, the diversity in the church may well be one of our true strengths.  Our ability (or inability) to embrace and manage that diversity will either grow us and move us forward or it will end us (locally, I mean, not globally…not even the gates of hell will prevail against the church globally).  Biblical unity assumes there will be disagreement and insists that we find healthy ways of processing it.  It assumes you and I are living in relationships where your understanding of God actually informs, shapes, and (gulp!) changes my understanding of God.  We live so as to be intentionally influenced by one another, especially by our differences.

Yes, scripture calls us to be “like-minded” and yes, there is a place for doctrinal purity and truth and a clear sense of right and wrong.  Unity doesn’t compromise the truth.  It just calls us to a level of humility in our grasp of truth, a healthy understanding of what it means to “see as in a mirror, dimly”.

But despite the value of doctrinal purity and truth, in talking about the church, nowhere does God’s Word call us to uniformity.  Nowhere.

Uniformity is the place we tend to run toward out of our fear of diversity.  Being essentially a “tribal” people (see this post about the barrier-free church) we lean towards pushing diversity away, because it scares us.  The urban dictionary calls it “otherizing” people.  We set them apart from us and mark them as different from us.  It is, I believe, usually about fear.  But that fear doesn’t come from God.  He did not give us a spirit of fear.  Unity is quite the opposite of that fear.  Unity means we embrace our differences and show the world that the love of Christ is much, much larger than these differences.

So as we begin this or any other discussion about Biblical unity, let us begin with this precept: it is not about agreeing all the time…it is not uniformity.  It is not even close.

© Blake Coffee

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