Perhaps the most surprising thing to me as I’ve reflected on the church and the importance people have played in my spiritual growth is the sheer diversity of humankind. I’m not simply talking about ethnicity or personality, though I’ve enjoyed learning about different basic personality types and often find these quite accurate (the Myers-Brigg personality test or the Enneagram, for example, offer insight into people’s temperament and can help us not only to understand ourselves but other people.) People ultimately just fascinate me!
When I was younger, I would get very frustrated with people who were different to me. I couldn’t understand them and my reaction either tended to be to feel demeaned (they were different so I must be the one who was wrong) or to feel superior (they were different so I had to be the one who was right!) I thought that God must have made a mistake in making us all so different!
However, over the years I’ve come to appreciate diversity and difference far more and I’ve also come to see that there can be unity even through diversity.
Paul talks about this in Romans 12:3-8 TNIV and 1 Cor 12:12-31 TNIV. Ephesians 4:4-6 TNIV says ‘There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.’ It is a mystery to us how there can be unity and diversity; we tend to think that the two are mutually exclusive. However, in the Godhead we see that three persons co-exist in one God: Father, Son and Spirit – not three gods but one God – and this becomes a pattern for unity and diversity.
Learning to get on with people is probably one of the hardest lessons of life. But as we see the value God has placed on each individual, see that we are all made in the image of God, see that we are unique and yet we all belong to this amazing family of God, we begin to glimpse something of the awesome purposes of God: ‘Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’ (Eph 4:14-18 TNIV)
God’s aim is that we will grow to be the mature body of Christ, ‘no prolonged infancies among us’, as the Message version puts it. Neil Hudson has commented that God has recruited us to His cause, rather than the other way around. His goal is our maturity and our conformity to the image of Christ. Let’s press on towards that goal, knowing that each one of us has a vital and unique role to play.