Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in... uniformity?

     How good and pleasant it is
         when God’s people live together in unity!
     It is like precious oil poured on the head,
         running down on the beard,
     running down on Aaron’s beard,
         down on the collar of his robe.
     It is as if the dew of Hermon
         were falling on Mount Zion.
     For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
         even life forevermore.  
Psalm 133

I think it is really easy for people to confuse uniformity for unity, and that is especially tragic among Christians.
There are cases when uniformity is really important. First responders wear uniforms and follow uniform procedures to maximize efficiency and effectiveness during emergencies. Soldiers do the same to accomplish their mission, preserving the chain of command.
But the Church is something different. The Bible often describes the Church as the Body of Christ… not merely with various parts for different functions, but I believe with various parts with different perspectives, passions, and understandings too.
It is vital that we see the difference. In places where uniformity is more important than, or even mistaken for, unity… we likely have something more along the lines of a cult than a true expression of the Body of Christ.
Uniformity stresses conformity to style; unity seeks agreement on substance.
Uniformity focusses on shared distinctives; unity celebrates diversity.
Uniformity prizes excellence; unity values broad participation.
Uniformity excommunicates; unity redeems.
Uniformity has a long list of rules; unity has a tight list of essentials.
Uniformity doesn’t tolerate tension, ambiguity, or paradoxes; unity gets comfortable with uncertainty.
Uniformity only listens to one voice (be that the majority voice or the voice of the powerful); unity works to hear and consider the minority voice (even speaking for those who can’t).
Uniformity circumscribes, defining who and what must be kept out; unity expands the territory, seeking more who can be in.
Uniformity blesses itself by celebrating sameness; unity is bestowed with the blessing of God, “even life forevermore.”

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Dan, thanks for articulating the differences. We do often confuse uniformity and unity. It's most comfortable when we share similar (if not identical) opinions, politics and appearances with our fellow believers, especially in a small church environment. It's so hard to be pushed out of our comfort zone to welcome those who are different, let alone go out and invite others to join us. And when the person who is "different" in perspective, in appearance, or in communication style is within our midst -- maybe even one of our own -- that's even harder to accept. Jesus keeps pushing our limits, doesn't he, by requiring us to accept the person, consider an idea and maybe even change our perspective. And all the while, remembering that unity is what we seek. We are created as individuals and shouldn't be surprised that we aren't all the same!