UNITY IN DIVERSITY (8-13-17)

One may ask can you achieve unity in diversity? Can you truly have a diverse group of people, and yet still be unified? The answer is YES, in fact this is what God expects of His people. First, let’s look at unity. Unity is a word that easily rolls off our tongue. It’s a concept each of us can picture in our minds, and have an idea what it looks like. However, unity is a concept that is not easy to obtain, in fact it takes a lot of effort and self-sacrifice to achieve unity. The concept of unity is not foreign to our great nation. “E pluribus Unum” is the official motto of the United States. It means “out of many, one” in Latin. It has been placed on the U.S. dollar bill, and other related items. It is meant to suggest that the U.S. is a melting pot, that many people come together as one. This runs down the veins of our great nation, that individuals from all backgrounds, ethnicity, and gender are melted together into a new race of people. Brethren this is what God expects from His church. In 1 Peter 2:9, it states that, “ye are a chosen generation” in this verse the word “generation” means people, or better yet race. God tells us that we are a chosen race. In God’s plan for mankind He purposed a diverse group of people to become a new race in Christ. This race of people is not based on skin color, social status, or even gender. It’s based on your faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 3:27-28, 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. In verse 27 Paul tells us that it’s baptism that put us into Christ. He further explains in verse 28 that there is no distinction in Christ. That everyone, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, put on Christ the same way, and makes us all one in Christ. Jesus prayed for unity in John 17:20-21, in which He laid the foundation for unity for the apostles, and the early church. Our Lord and Savior knew, and understood that the church would consist of members from diverse backgrounds. During the time of the early church the distinction between Jews and Gentiles was huge. Here were people who from birth disdained each other, looked down on each other, and lived in suspicion of each other. How successful would the early church have been if they retained their prejudices and differences? From the Roman epistle throughout most of the New Testament we can read about the disdain between Jews and Gentiles. It was so big that even the Apostle Peter after baptizing the first Gentile into Christ in Acts 10:1-48, was later rebuked by the Apostle Paul because he showed difference between the Jews and the Gentiles in Galatians 2:11-14. Yes as Christians we have our differences. We come from different backgrounds: family, nationality, religious beliefs, and social status. We are also diverse with many different gifts and talents. In Romans 12:6-8 Paul tells us that we have different talents, while in 1 Corinthians 12:14-19 Paul explains that our talents function in different ways. If I left it there you would think that God wanted diversity alone in His church. However, if we closely look at Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 we can see that God is actually teaching us unity in diversity. In Romans 12:3-5 Paul states the following, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office. So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” In these verses Paul highlights that we are many members with different function, but existing in one body. He emphasizes a similar point in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 20, and 26, that each member is an individual member of a whole. Marriage is a good example of this. A man and woman become husband and wife. Together they form a single whole, but each bring different abilities to the union to the benefit of both. So how do we achieve unity in diversity? First it requires a submission by all to something greater than yourself. Jesus commands us in Matthew 22:37,Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Our submission to God requires us to choose Him, over our own self ambitions. To achieve unity we must all obey and live by the same rules and authority. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 21:23-27 that there are only two sources of authority, God and man. Only one can be a rightful source, and since God is our Creator, He is that standard of authority. By submitting to the same authority, we all become of the same mind and follow the same standard. 1 Corinthians 1:10, Philippians 3:16. The fruit produced in following the same standard is unity. Secondly, to achieve unity in diversity we must be accepting of the other brethren. Unity is not found in insisting that every member be exactly alike in all things. All members do not have the same function. Romans 12:4. We are to have the same mind toward each other, and treat all brethren as equals. Lastly, to achieve unity in diversity we must have love for one another. Jesus tells His disciples in John 15:12, This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. There is no unity without love. In Colossians 3:14 Paul tells us that love is the bond that binds all these together. Love is characterized much more by action than by feeling. It is a love that seeks the best for all involved, and is demonstrated by taking whatever action is necessary to secure that best for the other person. If we have this kind of love, then we will be “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgive usEphesians 4:32. Unity cannot exist long without these attitudes. Therefore, let us all strive for unity even in our diversity. No matter your background, social status, gender, or past sins you have struggled with, we are all one in Christ.

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