Unity not Uniformity

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Yesterday at Journey Church, I spoke about God’s call to us to be unified as the Church and as a church.  Unity is not optional.  When we don’t live in unity we fail to be the church.  When we don’t live in unity, we can’t call ourselves the ecclesia, the church of Jesus.

Part of our problem with unity is our confusing it with uniformity.  Most Christians, it seems, desire to be part of a church that is uniform – people all look and think the same.  Uniform churches are made up of people who all belong to the same political party, which creates a lot of tension based on this current political season in our country.

God doesn’t call his Church to be uniform, nor does he call our churches to be uniform – he calls us to be in unity, a mosaic reflecting his diversity.

So what is the problem with being a uniform church?  Because the uniform church is so concerned with trying to maintain it’s sameness, the “other” is not welcome.  When the “other” is not welcome, Jesus is not welcome.

Today, I spent my morning reading Richard Rohr’s wonderful book about the Trinity: The Divine Dance.  He speaks to this very issue:

Most of us don’t know how to be diverse and yet one. In unhealthy religion, we’ve felt this pathological need to make everybody the same; church has become more and more an exclusionary institution instead of this great banquet feast where Jesus constantly invites in “sinners,” outcasts, the marginalized, and the ne’er-do-wells.

Jesus says, in effect, “Go out to the highways and the byways—bring everybody in, good and bad alike.” Check it out. Matthew 22. I didn’t make that up, all right? It’s from Jesus!

But we don’t like that, do we? We don’t want “those people” in here with us. Maybe send some money or some missionaries “over there” to them, but please don’t bring them here, with us!

However, our little culture has defined the “bad people” as those others, because the ego is much more comfortable with uniformity. People who look like me and talk like me don’t threaten my boundaries.

What a contrast to the Trinitarian God who totally releases all claims on such boundaries for the sake of the other! Each member accepts that they’re fully accepted by the other.

This might well be the essence of the spiritual journey for all of us—to accept that we’re accepted and to go and live likewise.

So the question that I am wrestling with as a Christ-follower, will I make room for the “other” in my world?  Will I welcome people who are different than me, and in effect, welcome the beautiful reflection of Jesus into his church?  Will you?

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