Unity with Diversity

Unity with Diversity

Black live matter. Blue lives matter. All lives matter. These are the political slogans of our day and they are used to create disunity. Unity with diversity, which has defined the United States of America since its inception, no longer seems to matter.

This is the year of the Census. Instead of creating unity, the government uses the census for dividing people. The government wants to know how many of each “race” there is. This is a misleading concept. We have various skin colors and cultures, but there is only one race—the human race. Nevertheless, Satan keeps fanning the flames of hate and division by exaggerating our differences through the media and in politics.

The Church has been criticized for being divided, but it is not divided because of hate. The division is largely according different cultures, languages, traditions, and interpretations. While we prefer familiar worship styles, music, and people like ourselves, imagine the power and influence the Church would have in society if we were united by the Truth and love of God.

Have you ever played with a kaleidoscope? It contains little mirrors and several different colored and shaped pieces of glass or plastic. Looking through the kaleidoscope into the light, you see colorful geometric images. As you turn the kaleidoscope, the colorful images change. You can look through this toy for hours and not see the same design twice. It is a good example of the beauty of unity with diversity when it is illuminated with light that comes from God.

Acts 2:1-12 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Peter used the prophesies in the Old Covenant to answer their question. Then he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of those listening were convicted and believed.

Acts 2:37-41 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Notice: 16 nationalities, hearing God praised in their own language. 3000 believed the Gospel. Immediately on the Day of Pentecost, the Body of Christ became a multi-ethnic mega-church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Obviously, the New Covenant is for all people. And it is the commission of the Church to share the good news with all people.

Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

There are many nationalities in this small city. Do we need social sensitivity training to accomplish this commission? No, we need the power and grace of God.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Immediately, the Jewish believers had to overcome a personal problem. Normally, they did not associate with Samaritans, who had a false religion. At first, instead of going, they remained in Jerusalem, but persecution caused them to disperse into other regions.

Acts 8:4-8 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.

We see from this that faith comes to all people by the Word of God and by preaching Christ. And the power of the Holy Spirit brings faith, healing, deliverance, and causes barriers between people and cultures to fall. The end result is all believers are changed into children of God.

Acts 8:14-17 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, “The ends of the earth” in Acts 1:8 meant taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. Now that was a greater barrier than associating with the Samaritans. Not only were there bigger cultural differences, Jewish law encouraged separation from Gentiles, and a faithful Jew kept himself clean and holy by not associating with them. Therefore, the first church had a prejudice problem, but God, the Holy Spirit, soon changed that.

In Acts 10, the Holy Spirit gave Peter a vision of what was traditionally considered unclean to eat and told him to eat it and stop calling what God has made clean “unclean”. While Peter was perplexed by this vision and wondering what it meant, some Gentiles came to the place where Peter was staying and asked him to come and share the Gospel with them. Peter was uncomfortable with the request but he went in obedience to the Spirit.

vs. 27-33 Talking with him [Cornelius], Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

Peter begins telling them about Jesus. In the middle of his sermon, the Holy Spirit falls upon these new Gentile believers.

vs. 44-48 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

As these Scriptures show, unity will be achieved if we are filled with the Holy Spirit and have grace to do what Jesus said, “Love God and love your neighbor.” There is unity in Jesus, who is the Truth. He brings us together and makes us a formidable witness to the world. That is why the enemy works hard to separate us. Beware of pride and arrogance that causes division in the Body of Christ. Stay humble and focused on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Work on the mission He gave us: to make disciples of all nations and to love one another.

We don’t need a diversity plan if we just love people and welcome them into our lives. Cultural differences won’t matter when people feel loved. Maybe we have different traditions or life styles, but if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will love and accept one another.

Associating with different people will change our thinking. We will change their thinking. The Holy Spirit will change all of us into the image of Jesus Christ. In the meantime, He has empowered us to reach out and love others in our community. Maybe we at First Christian in DeQueen won’t turn the world upside down by ourselves, but we can turn our lives right side up. We can turn our homes right side up. And we can be a catalyst for change in this community and everywhere we go.

Ephesians 4:1-7 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Vs. 11-16 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

We are called to be people of God, unified by love and in submission to Christ. We are to be patient with one another while God changes us. As each person submits their life to the Word of God, they gradually change into a holy people that acts like Jesus.

In verses 1-7, Paul lists 5 characteristics that unity depends on: humility, gentleness, patience, mutual forbearance, and love. Not surprisingly, he begins his list with humility. That is, the attitude that Jesus displayed when he became one of us. It’s the attitude that recognizes the worth and value of other people.

Humility is essential to unity. Pride always results in discord. Notice that humility and gentleness form a natural pairing. To be like Jesus, we need humility and gentleness, which are fruit of the Holy Spirit. They are the words used by Jesus to describe himself.

Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The next two characteristics also form a natural pairing. Patience and forbearance are longsuffering attitudes towards people: the sort of patience and forbearance that God has toward us. Our natural response to an offense is to divide and get as many as we can to agree with us. However, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will have patience and forbearance.

Proverbs 17:9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

The final characteristic in his list is love, which takes in all the other character traits and enables them to be expressed. It’s the controlling force for everything we do, because God is love.

1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Therefore, unity arises from the unity of our God. There is one body because there is only one Spirit, who brings the Church about, and only one Lord Jesus, who is its head. There is one hope, one faith, one baptism, because there is only one Lord Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Finally, there is only one family of God, because there is only one Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in all. Therefore, our unity comes from the fact that the one Father creates the one family, through faith in the one Lord Jesus, and by the power of the one Spirit of the one body.

In spite of the disunity that exists among the churches today, the unity of the Godhead isn’t damaged, but our testimony to the world is marred. That’s why Paul makes this plea to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. That is why Jesus prayed that we would be one.

John 17:20-21 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

To have unity with one another, we must keep our eyes on Jesus and be in harmony with the Truth. To illustrate this, consider an orchestra. Before their performance, all the players are doing their own thing and tuning their diverse instruments. As a result, they create an irritating noise. Once the conductor arrives and everyone gets quiet. All the players are focused on him. Then the conductor has the violinist in the first chair play a note. This violinist has tuned his instrument to the standard tuning fork. All the other players now tune their instruments to this violinist’s instrument. They are now in harmony with one another, not by focusing on each other, but by yielding to the conductor’s leadership and to the true standard.

Likewise, a diverse group of worshipers meeting together, each one focused on Christ, are more in harmony with each other than they could possibly be if they were to become 'unity' conscious and turned their eyes away from Jesus to strive for closer unity. As we draw closer to Christ and His Truth, we draw closer to each other. The Church is made up of a lot of individuals, everyone different from all the rest, but we are different for a reason. The differences you see are often the result of the different ways Christ wants to work through us. Like the kaleidoscope and the orchestra, the beauty of unity is enriched by the diversity of its members.

The gifts in Ephesians 4 are that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. This is not an exhaustive gift list by any means, but a significant one. These are all gifts of the Spirit with the same purpose: to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. They’re all gifts that in one way or another bring God’s Word to people, whether it’s for the first time as in apostles and prophets, or in the form of the Gospel as in the case of evangelists, or in a systematic and applied way as in the case of pastors and teachers. That isn’t to say that other gifts aren’t important, but when it comes to the Church achieving the unity and the maturity that God desires, these gifts are necessary to achieve unity in the faith and maturity in Christ.

If we’re to achieve unity, then this is what we should be striving for: maturity! To grow up. It’s what all children long for, isn’t it? In the case of the Church, maturity equates with attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. That is, to possess the same character of Jesus and the unity that Christ experiences with the Father.

It requires that we know the Truth and live by it. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Therefore, everyone needs to be a student of the Word and filled the Holy Spirit every day. Without the Word and the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing except fall for Satan’s deceptions and become divisive. Don’t let what you see in the media dominate your spirit and affect your love for others. Focus on Christ and His Word. We need God’s grace to bravely come against the kingdom of darkness and be Christ’s witness in our home, work, school, and in our community.

Therefore, if you have never given your life to Jesus, confess Jesus as Lord, repent of your sin, and submit to baptism so that you will receive a new life, born of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be united with Christ and His Church, and you will have grace to love others and be united with diverse people.