The Church | Unity in Diversity
We search for a Church that is ordered, structured, neat and tidy, with everything in its place. The idea of a messy Church is a difficult concept to embrace; after all, God our Father is a God of order, is He not?
Who really desires the church to be tidy - is it God or us?
If this was the Father's desire, to have an ordered, neat and tidy Church, why then did He instruct His son to establish His church upon pillars of fishermen and tax collectors? Who really desires the church to be tidy - is it God or us? What we might see as messy, God sees as 'divine order in progress'. Imagine the most beautiful tapestry possible, precisely woven, every stitch in its place; it's a wonder to behold. But if we were to turn the tapestry over and reveal its other side, we'd see nothing but complex confusion, nothing making any sense, loose ends, strings undefined - we'd see a mess. It is the same with the Church. When we look at it from human perspective we see a messy Church, but from God's perspective, He sees His order in progress. It is not the Church that needs to change but rather our perspective of it.
Why do diverse denominations exist?
If God desired, He could have entered history at any time and derailed the establishment and development of any of the diverse Christian denominations together with their expressions of a particular charism. But He did not. Do we really think that our Father stood back and watched us build a Tower of Babel out of His Church, and did nothing about it? We must consider this question - why do diverse denominations exist? Why did God allow them not only to exist, but He helped them flourish, for scripture itself declares that non-one can build the Kingdom without the Lord helping them, or are we about to presume that all Christian denominations, except one, are void of God and His grace? Dare we postulate such absurdity?
A simple study of Christianity today, the contemporary Church, will prove that the Christian Church is growing organically - it is growing even where no structure and institution exists. The spreading of God's Kingdom and the expansion of the Church derives it's life force from God, not humans - we can assist but we cannot initiate its growth. Therefore the various expressions of God's diverse and unparalleled beauty, as reflected in the diverse Christian denominations, must be seen from God's perspective. We need to get out from behind the tapestry and see the Church, His Ekklesia as He sees it. We need to repent from seeing God's diversity as a mess. It is His order in progress.
There are two traditional approaches to the unity of the Church. The first speaks of all that we have in common. The different denominations have much in common: the Trinity, the Bible, Baptisms, the Christian Creeds, the essential Doctrines of Faith and much more. Those who hold to this approach often end their speeches with the resounding statement that, "What we have in common far exceeds that which divides us." And this saying is a sobering truth.
We cannot fall in love with that which we choose to ignore.
The second general approach to Christian unity is the principle of the 'lowest common denominator.' This approach is often based squarely on the Word of God, in its cathedral declaration that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28 NASB). This approach simplifies the arguments and stills the voices of the protestors. It brings all arguments to the feet of the Root, the Firstborn. For the Church finds it beginnings, its life source and its consummation in Christ - He is the Alpha and the Omega, and everything inbetween. The simplest convert of Christ can embrace his universal family through this approach.
Without detracting any efficacy from either of these approaches, they both inherently suffer from the same weakness - they ignore and often refuse to explore our differences. We circumvent our differences in order to speak of our commonalities, and ignore our diversity to tunnel vision onto Christ as the only commonality. Although both approaches do foster Christian unity, they fail to enflame our hearts with the beauty of diversity. We cannot fall in love with that which we choose to ignore. We cannot celebrate that which we refuse to fellowship with. We cannot come to appreciate that which we will not explore. Our diversity is divine, it is our division that is diabolic.
God has expressed His nature of diversity through His universal Church.
I offer you another perspective, without replacing any other: The Celebration of Diversity - Convergence. God has expressed His nature of diversity through His universal Church. His Body bears the aspects of His character, which are seen in His Son Jesus.
Jesus was evangelical; it was He who overcame the Devil by the Word of God, telling him, "It is written". It was Jesus who told the religious leaders, "no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). Jesus believed in the Word of God and the necessity and joy of personal conversion, which demonstrates that our Lord is an Evangelical.
Jesus was sacramental. To Him sign and symbol had great significance. He gave symbol it's meaning. He instituted the sacraments of Water Baptism as a sign and symbol of death and resurrection. He instituted the Lord's Supper, Communion, as a sign and symbol and a memorial of His death, resurrection and return, hallelujah! He asked us to do this as often as we meet until His return, therefore our Lord is Sacramental.
He was known as a man who was full of the Spirit of God, who went around doing good (Acts 10:38). By the power of the Spirit He healed the sick, raised the dead, preached the Kingdom, fed the poor and trained His disciples - Jesus was a 1st century near East Charismatic Pentecostal, (Matt 12:25-30). Our Lord is the King of the Renewal Movement; our King is a Charismatic.
When we find ourselves complete with God alone, all else around us will reveal it's true value.
However, His motivation and sustained passion did not come from being with crowds, nor fellowshipping with His intimate friends, His Disciples - Jesus' sustained passion came from being alone in divine solitude. His most important decisions and most prominent miracles were preceded by time spent alone in contemplative prayer. Divine solitude is never being alone. Jesus was a contemplative. Our Lord is not scared of the 'dark night'. When we find ourselves complete with God alone, all else around us will reveal its true value.
"Do likewise and live", is what Jesus said to the Doctor of the Law, when He was asked, "What must I do to have eternal life?" Jesus asked the Jewish Lawyer to stop and to love his enemy, the Samaritan. Jesus was THE Samaritan, He stepped out of His journey through eternity to come and save us, and He did this without consideration of our merit. He agreed to die for us before the foundation of the Earth. He loves because He is Love, and Love can do no other than to Love; Our Lord is a Social Justice Samaritan.
Jesus is the Pentecostal Charismatic Evangelical Sacramental Holiness and Social Justice Good Samaritan. This is our Lord, our example, the image we are predestined to be conformed to, from glory to glory!
We have the divine invitation to encounter the fullness of Christ by celebrating diversity.
When we return to look at the diverse expressions of each Christian denomination, we can see that in each denomination the particular characters of Christ are contained, preserved and expressed. Therefore the diverse Christian denominations should not present to us reason for division, but rather an opportunity to embrace the characters and charisms of Christ that we, or our Denomination may not represent. The varied Christian denominations offer to us the diverse riches of Christ wholeness. We have the divine invitation to encounter the fullness of Christ by celebrating diversity. We are to celebrate diversity not ignore and avoid it. We were born unique; let’s not die clones.
We NEED each other. How can the world recognise Jesus if His image remains shattered among our fragmented Church denominations?
The convergence of the varied spiritual expressions of Christ are our salvation and the key to our longevity both as Church and Converts, as each of the expressions energise and sustain the other. A Charismatic lifestyle will burn out like a fiery comet if not sustained by a Contemplative prayer life. The Good Samaritan will become a politically correct philanthropist if he does not submerge himself in the Word of God and remain evangelically bold in his true mission to convert people to Christ's love. If the Sacramental Christian does not go out to the highways and byways, he will find himself more in love with his signs and symbols than with those he is sent to love. The Sacramental Christian will find joy when he expresses the reality behind the symbol out on the streets.
When denominations are seen from this perspective, we may dare to suggest that we NEED each other. How can the world recognise Jesus if His image remains shattered among our fragmented Church denominations? Surely they will only see His image when we unite the fragments, when we stand together, not when we all become the same. The fullness of Christ's image comes into focus when we unite the diverse parts without destroying their uniqueness. When we all lose ourselves in Christ we will find ourselves one with each other, expressing our particular diversity. I will say again: our diversity is Divine; it's our division that's diabolic.
Brothers and Sisters, let us begin to explore and embrace our diversity and we'll find ourselves being conformed deeper into the image of our Lord, who is the universal unity of all diversity. Converge the streams of living water. Embrace your destiny, why live for anything else?