Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Unity (part 5)

Is diversity a necessary part of the kingdom come on earth? Is the longing I have to worship and be in community and serve with people different from me as well as similar to me part of the divine nature within me?

I want to live in a community of faith in Christ that includes both pacifists and military heroes. I enjoy seeing a cowboy elder hugging a hip-hop baggy pants wearing teenager. Give me the young reaching up to take a stick of gum from an older lady of the church over the rigorously segregated by age "assemblies" many churches have.

Diversity comes not only in a racial sense. Diversity in our churches may mean age, social, economic, denominational, vocational, beliefs, pratices.

No discussion of unity touches reality without dealing with how ready we are to have diversity.

We cannot quote one of the best Restoration pleas quite enough: in matters of faith we have unity, in matters of opinion we have diversity, and in all things charity. What we ought to be vigilant about, however, is to not allow this plea to go undiscussed, as if it's self-evident and a mantra that settles all disputes. It doesn't.

We still must understand what constitutes a faith matter, an opinion matter. For that we do well to understand what was important to Jesus, what was a faith matter to God throughout the witness of Scripture. When the Lord addresses Israel directly or through prophets, here is an example of what He says through the prophet Micah (6:8):
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
And when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, he sets the course of history on its ear when he says, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:37-40).

In order to know what is opinion and what is a matter of faith, we must understand what the heart of God says, what Jesus said when he was on earth, and determine from those words, from those actions, what is truly a matter of faith. We tend to gravitate toward this being a list of what we believe, and certainly we have every reason to have as matters of faith a set of beliefs about God, the creator who sent Jesus who was not created into the world, who lived a while among us, taught, loved and healed and was betrayed and given by his own people to be crucified yet he rose on the third day and lives now through us and in us by his Holy Spirit and we wait expectantly for the day of his appearing again.

Yet even to believe all the right things is not the heart of what Jesus seems to be saying to us when he says all the Law and the Prophets hang on the practice of loving God with every stem-cell of our being, and to love our neighbors as if we were loving ourselves. The way we treat our neighbors is a matter of faith. It's time we start taking what Jesus said the Law and the Prophets hang on literally. When will we truly start acting like we say we believe?

This applies to every area of endeavor, be it within churches as we discuss our own practices, in our outreach, in our families, in our neighborhoods, friendships, and extended family relationships, and yes even how we treat the stranger.

Christ still longs for us to be one, to be gathered and unified under his wings. Christ says, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"

1 comment:

Carl said...

I too share that dream of such a diversity in the church. When our faith becomes action, when our action reflects our faith. As our churches explore what it means to become active in the communities around us, to truly live the faith so that we may ultimately love our neighbors as ourselves, I have faith that God will be exalted.

Carl
Simple Gestures