Friday, August 3, 2007
WHAT DOES A HEALTHY CHURCH LOOK LIKE? (4: DIVERSITY)
A blind man, feeling the leg of an elephant said, "It's like a strong tree." The second, holding the trunk, reckoned that "It's like a thick vine." The third blind man, running his hands across the large body of the elephant, exclaimed, "No, it is like a wide mountain."
The NT Christians were like that. Paul was strong on faith; James on works. Luke-Acts has a lot about prophets; John hardly mentions them. The church, says Paul, is like a single body, but has many parts.
Our Lord bluntly targeted the narrow nationalism of his own people, particularly in stories like the Good Samaritan. Here the 'foreigner' is a hero. 'Ethnocentrism' is the glorification of my group, leading to a kind of spiritual apartheid: I'll do my thing and you do yours - over there. Territoriality ('my place - keep out!') replaces hospitality ('my place - you're welcome!').
In our global village we cannot avoid relating to 'different others'. Indeed, marriage is all about two different people forming a unity in spite of their differences. Those differences can of course be irritating - for example when a 'lark' marries an 'owl' (but the Creator made both to adorn his creation).
No one branch of the church has a monopoly on the truth. Differences between denominations or congregations - or even within them - reflect the rich diversity and variety of the social, cultural and temperamental backgrounds from which those people come. But they also reflect the character of God whose grace is 'multi-coloured'. If you belong to Christ and I belong to Christ, we belong to each other and we need each other. Nothing should divide us. So we should accept one another, as we are each accepted by God (Romans 15:7).
Snoopy was typing a manuscript, up on his kennel. Charlie Brown: 'What are you doing, Snoopy?' Snoopy: 'Writing a book about theology.' Charlie Brown: 'Good grief. What's its title?' Snoopy (thoughtfully): 'Have You Ever Considered You Might Be Wrong?' God's truth is very much bigger than our little systems.