Heartlight Special Feature
Maintain the Unity, by Karen Alexander

I love diversity. In fact, I marvel at diversity and praise God for it. Nothing makes me praise God more than the change of seasons: that first crisp fall morning, the annual resurrection of spring, that first HOT summer afternoon, the bite of cold in the winter. As a child, I lived for a few years in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and we often went to the zoo. One of my favorite games there was to find as many different colors of feathers as possible. Bright blue, light blue, turquoise, red, brown, black, orange, brilliant green—they were all there. The wonder of God’s attention to detail wowed me even then. I felt the same sense of incredulity in the Caribbean a few years ago when I snorkeled among thousands of fish decorated in the most amazing array of color and design.

But not everything about diversity makes our souls sing. Diversity sometimes wrecks our routines, confuses us, and challenges us. When it comes to people, what one may celebrate as diverse, is downright fickle, if not irritating, to another.

So what are we to do? Should we celebrate curious character or become frustrated by those fickle figures in our lives? People have been wrestling with that same question for centuries. Even the apostle Paul, as he worked closely with saints across the Roman empire struggled to keep Christians working contently rather than contentiously. Remember Eueodia and Synthichae in Philippi? Will someone please help these women to get along, Paul begged in his letter to the church there. The problem is more than a mere nuisance. To the Corinthians, he wrote, “I can’t call you spiritual because there is still division among you... ” You are just big babies (1 Cor. 3:1ff).

In truth, we are all totally different. We don’t look the same, act the same, or think the same. We are motivated by different emotions, feelings, ambitions, needs, and goals. We have different abilities, talents, levels of intelligence, and spiritual gifts. Yet, we are all expected to act and function as one body in the church.

The chore might not be so difficult if we truly believed we were that one body—Christ. When God glorified Jesus, he put all things under him and appointed him to be the head for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph. 1:22) The Ephesian letter begs that the reader grasp this fact: the church is Christ, 100% reconstituted. To be a part of the church is to be part of one being, Jesus. Ephesians 1:9-10 says it was God’s will to create unity by bringing all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace. ” (Eph. 2:15-17)

Who would dare to undermine the purpose of God? We do. Each time we separate ourselves from one another, each time we bicker and argue, gossip, and refuse to forgive we testify that we do not understand God’s purpose in Christ. God created our unity. We need not wrestle with how we might achieve it; we must surrender to it. Paul wrote, “make every effort to maintain the unity through the bond of peace. ” (Eph. 4:3). Maintain the unity.

Our cars come with warranties that require a particular maintenance schedule because dealers know that only a properly maintained vehicle will function at its best. The church is no different. It also requires maintenance, and that maintenance requires that each member surrender his own will and accept the one will of Christ. If the world needs anything today, it needs to experience the fullness of Christ through the consistent, powerful witness of his body, the church.

Are you keeping up with your maintenance schedule? How well are you maintaining your relationship in the church, the vehicle of our peace? The world is watching. What does it see?


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