In last week’s study, we saw that God understands human diversity. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they brought a world of trouble into their lives and the lives of all who would be born from their seed. A big part of that trouble is what we know as diversity. God Created men and women to rule the earth with Him, but sin brought about a vast diversity in how men and women relate to each other and to their physical surroundings. God Created men and women to have sexual relations with each other in marriage, but sin has brought about all kinds of sexual diversities outside of marriage. God Created humans to speak the same language and share DNA qualities, but sin brought about many kinds of language and DNA diversities. God Created people to love and worship Him (the One True God), but sin brought about diverse worship practices that included millions of false gods.
We also saw that God has been in the process of bringing unity from diversity for thousands of years. God Created humans to be one with Him and that’s where we’re headed. A select portion of the human race will become one with God throughout eternity. God first chose Israel, then the Body of Christ, to be one with Him. And that will happen soon enough.
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” Revelation 21:1-7
That’s our marvelous future! But what about now? Since God wants unity among His people, should we ban any type of diversity in the Church? No, in fact, we need diversity in the Church – the right kind of diversity. The beautiful thing about the right kind of diversity is that its goal is unity, but to reach that goal we need to be able to discern between the good diversity and bad diversity.
Let’s start with the facts that everyone faces in a local church – we’re all different. I was an atheist. You may have been a Baptist or a Buddhist. The lady on the front row may have been kind. The man in the back may have been mean. Walk into any church in any country in the world and you’ll hear so much diversity. He’s poor. She’s rich. They’re black. They’re white. They live in a mansion. They live in a shack. He’s a teacher. She’s a mother. He spent 10 years in prison for murder. She had an abortion. Christians come in all colors and sizes – but we absolutely have one very important thing in common.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28
Putting on Christ is how God Creates unity out of diversity – but we are still diverse. You are different than me. Your family background is different than mine. Your spiritual testimony is different than mine. The result – putting on Christ – is the unity – but we are still diverse. And we should embrace our diversity. It is through our diversity that we can impact the world for God’s glory!
One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is thinking they are more special than others God has placed in the Body of Christ. We are special to God – but not more special than anyone else. God is a Perfect Father Who loves all of His children – including those who we may think of as “different.” That’s another beautiful thing about diversity in unity.
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
One of the reasons these verses are so powerful is because of the reason Paul wrote them. The Christians in Corinth had a big problem with the wrong kind of diversity that causes divisions in the Body.
“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Before we get all pious about how we’re so much better than the Corinthians, we’d better take a close look at ourselves. The Corinthian Church had four divisions: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and Christ. That sounds silly to us now, but how many divisions of Christians are there where you live? I’ll bet it’s lot more than four. The number of Christian denominations around the world is estimated to be close to 38,000. The “Corinthian Syndrome” is a huge problem in the Church today. That means we’d better read Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians again and again until we get God’s message to His Church.
Unfortunately, Christians have accepted divisions within the Body of Christ as a good diversity. That’s not what I read in 1 Corinthians.
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-4
Paul called that kind of diversity “carnal.” The Greek words Paul chose to describe early divisions in the Church were sarkinos and sarkikos. Both come from the same root word that means “flesh.” Sarkinos means “having the nature of flesh.” Sarkikos means “consisting of flesh, composed of flesh.” Paul wanted to speak with the Corinthian believers as “spiritual people,” but they were still “fleshly people” – babes in Christ. At first Paul fed them with the milk of the Word and not with solid food. After he left Corinth to continue his missionary travels, the Christians in Corinth developed separate followings based on which teacher or teaching they liked best. But the fact was they weren’t understanding any of the deep truths of Scripture. They displayed their carnality through envy, strife and divisions in the Church. They were behaving like “mere men.” I can tell you from my experience as an atheist turned Christian and the experiences of hundreds of other people I’ve talked with through the years, that divisions in the Church are one of the main reasons unsaved people do not want to be saved. That kind of diversity the Church can do without.
So, what does God think about diversity and what kind does the Church need? More on that next week.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”