by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
I am blessed with a happy marriage. Don’t get me wrong-we have our ups and downs. Steve and I enjoy a close relationship, developed over years of great times and laughter, but those years have also been sprinkled with hard times we wish we could forget. We are two very different people: personality tests reveal we are exact opposites in personality type.
Unity in spite of diversity can be challenging. It’s easy to bond with someone who always agrees with us. But it is a supernatural accomplishment to bond with those with whom we have nothing in common–and especially those with whom we vehemently disagree. Jesus told his disciples, “Love your enemies… For if you love [only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:36 NASB)
My church is an interesting collection of people. From Charismatic to Presbyterian to Baptist to Catholic, our spiritual backgrounds run the gamut. How can such a diverse group of individuals achieve unity and function as one body?
The world would tell us that the answer is “embracing diversity.” Rather than bemoan the theological and stylistic differences that exist between us, they suggest we celebrate them. Sounds good on the surface, but there is one problem with this idea. The focus is all wrong. When we direct our attention away from the Head of this body onto the individuals in fellowship, we are actually moving away from oneness. Moving our focus from God and onto each other is a recipe for unity disaster.
So what is the answer? How do we achieve unity in a relationship with diverse individuals: in a church, marriage, or any other setting?
A.W. Tozer observed that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same tuning fork are automatically in tune with each other. They are of one accord by being tuned to another standard outside of themselves.
In the same way, as each of us sets our mind on Christ, we will be drawn together in heart.
Paul spent a lot of time in his letter to the Romans explaining the appropriate use of spiritual gifts. He begins Romans 12 encouraging a very personal commitment to God, urging us to offer ourselves as individual living sacrifices. Why the stress on individual commitment to God in a chapter dedicated to the church operating as a unified body? When each member devotes themselves to the same cause, unity is inevitable.
This year marks forty years since Steve and I wed. People ask Steve and I if we have a secret to having remained happy all this time (or at least most of it!!). Our secret to obtaining oneness in marriage is absolutely dependent on our personal relationships with God. As we have both individually kept our focus on Christ, over the years that sameness in purpose has inexorably drawn us together.
We can only hope for unity despite differences when we set aside our own agendas and jointly focus our gaze on our Savior. Supernatural unity is a by-product of individuals determined to walk with Him.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2 NASB
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.
Join the conversation: What relationships do you have in your life where you love despite diversity?