It is so easy, in life, to notice difference isn’t it? and sometimes ‘difference’ can be very threatening. It can even lead us to judge or criticise others. When those differences are within our own community however, be that church or work, family or peer group, and those people who are different to us are the ones we admire, then it can lead us to feel bad about ourselves as we compare ourselves unfavourably.
So often if there is any ‘difference’ we tend to measure ourselves against others. We can see others as better or worse than us, higher or lower, OK or not OK, and we don’t like to feel that we are not in the OK group, whatever that might be. In the church this can be difficult as we can look at a fellow believer, whom we admire, and think ‘well I ought to become like him (or her)’ and undervalue the things about ourselves that make us different.
The truth is that God made us all different. We have different personalities, different gifts and talents, different backgrounds and education, sometimes even different culture and priorities, and we need to thank God for that variety. While we are encouraged to ‘imitate the faith’ of those who lead us Hebrews 13:7, and we know that the Holy Spirit is working in us all to become more like Jesus, He is not wanting us all to become clones, or carbon copies of one another.
Instead of comparing ourselves, which can lead to us positioning ourselves and others on an imaginary ladder imputing relative value, we need to celebrate our differences and look for differences in others that we can value too. I like the picture that Keith Green painted for us in His song ‘Colours of the Rainbow’, where he sees us as pieces of stained glass in a window, and as Jesus shines through us, while it’s His light, we all reflect very different colours.
The words are, ‘We are the colourful ones, we are God’s daughters and sons’. Now if Christ is shining through us, and the light coming through looks very much the same colour, it could be because we are dirty or opaque, so that we are all giving off a dull murkey colour. Being changed to be like Jesus, on the contrary, could mean that our differences will be more obvious, because if we are clean and clear, as the Lord shines through us, the different colours will be brighter and sharper, and the contrast between us all greater.
God wants us to be like a kaleidoscope of colour, reflecting all the different aspects of His creativity. He wants us to become like Jesus but does not want the wrong kind of sameness. Look at those twelve apostles for example, such a diverse bunch and each one called and chosen to be a founding pillar of the church. There has got to be difference, or else we will not be fully representing our amazing many faceted God.
I think Paul sums it up in Romans 12:1-11, definitely worth a read. He is encouraging the Christians to use their different gifting in the most Christ like way that they can, and to use that gifting, that talent, etc to serve each other. Like those early Christians let us also ‘offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God’ Romans 12:1. Thanking Him, with a whole heart, for the person that He has made us to be.
As we thank Him, we can then set about becoming the best and most Christ like version of ‘us’ that there can be, with the Holy Spirits indwelling help. We can also thank God that He made others different to us, and then our unity and oneness will be in that we are all manifesting the beautiful character of Jesus through our God given uniqueness.