Yesterday we were talking about revival and the part that love and unity play in bringing God’s presence to our Christian communities. Today we are considering the wonderful truth that unity does not mean uniformity or conformity. There is so much talk in these days about diversity and it is of course something that the Lord has built into creation. Our wonderfully creative God never stopped at creating one kind of anything, so that in nature we see a huge and diverse range of colour, shape, size and species in all the flora and fauna around us.
Our God is the King of diversity. It’s like He just couldn’t stop creating and even something like a leaf which has the amazing job of converting water and carbon dioxide into sugar, using the sun’s energy, comes in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, even colour, when just one variety could have done the job. I love nature for its beauty, but also for its extravagant multiplicity of form. You can never be bored when you are out observing the created world.
It is also the case that there is great diversity within the human race, and therefore within the Christian community. Personality, age, nationality etc all play a part, but then the Lord adds the diversity of gifting and ministry. He even calls us His body, having many different parts with differing functions. The strange thing about us human beings is that, sometimes, far from celebrating our diversity we can feel threatened by it. It is not just teenagers who feel the need to fit in and be like all their peers!! If we are honest, that weakness can also afflict us in the church.
In the letter to the Ephesians Paul specifically addresses the variety of ministry ‘gifts’ that God has given to the church. He names them as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and says that they are given ‘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.’ Ephesians 4:11-13.
So there we have it different ministries are given to the church in order to build us up until we have unity of faith fully prepared for the good works ‘He has planned in advance for us to do’. Ephesians 2:10. And not only are there different ministries but there are different gifts of the Spirit, and different service, and different working, but ‘the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God.’ 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Moreover all these different ones are given, we are told, ‘for the common good’.
In Romans we have yet another list of grace gifts. Paul writes ‘For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we who are many, are one body, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.’ Romans 12:4-13. He then goes on to list these gifts as; serving, hospitality, teaching, giving, leading, and encouraging, and my feeling is that there are many more like cleaning, administering, welcoming, maintaining etc etc.
The point Paul is making in all three letters is that all our giftings are for the building up of each other in the body. They are gifts with which we can serve each other and the Lord. They are never meant to be a source of contention, pride, or jealousy. And I believe that if I can maintain a spirit of gratitude, both for my own gifting, and for those of others, it will help me to celebrate the diversity in the body, while keeping the spirit of unity very much alive.
I am so glad that I don’t have to be everything to everyone, that others have gifts and talents I don’t have and that I don’t need to fret about that, but that I can be thankful for each and everyone of my brothers and sisters. As I give thanks it helps me to see that others are a blessing and not a threat, and that others have gifts and talents that I don’t have, but that I can, and indeed need, to benefit from. I believe thanksgiving will help us to enjoy each other so much more, and enable us to cheer each other on in our callings.
Paul sums it up well (as usual) ‘In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple to the Lord’. Ephesians 2:21. As we thank the Lord for all our different gifts and talents, we will also remember that there is ‘one body, one Spirit,…one hope…, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us 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.’ Ephesians 4: 4-7.