“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11 NKJV).
Much of the violence and unrest in the world today may be traced at least in part to cultural variety. In the transition from colonialism to independence many borders were drawn on the basis of geography alone without regard for radical differences in the ethnicities involved. Former colonial powers ignored tribal enmities and incompatibilities, as well as serious religious tensions. This led to civil war on a vast scale on several different continents. Of course, not every such conflict is traceable to colonialism. The same forces produce conflict in many contexts.
Yet it is obvious that variety can also produce strengths in a culture. America has long proclaimed itself to be a melting pot which has integrated the various positive traits of diverse immigrants, producing a unique blend of talent and ability. There is much truth to that claim.
Which is best in a culture or nation – homogeneity (i.e., sameness) or heterogeneity (i.e., difference)? Should we strive to all be alike or should we embrace our differences? The answer to the question is “Yes.” There are advantages to both, and areas where each is best. This is especially true when it comes to the Lord’s Kingdom, the Church.
On the one hand, Christians are to preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Jesus is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). No one is excluded from his kingdom on the basis of race, class, education, or nationality. “God so loved the world” – all of it, every human being (John 3:16).
But once the Kingdom has been entered differences begin to be erased. It no longer matters what race or country one is from. Neither education, occupation, social status or physical talents distinguish God’s people from one another in terms of his love for them (Colossians 3:11; Galatians 3:28). Note the apostle’s explanation for this phenomenon: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
Whatever there was previously that separated and divided has been erased in our common commitment to Jesus. A geometric theorem states, “Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” That is Paul’s assertion. We are all in Christ, therefore we are all one together. It must be this way.
Yes, say modern supporters of religious chaos, but ours is a unity in diversity. We can simply agree to disagree so that we love and respect each other (unity) while disagreeing on matters of doctrine and practice. Unfortunately, there are two problems with this definition of oneness.
First, Scripture does not support it. Consider these plain texts:
“Fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).
“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
“I therefore . . . beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
The unity commanded in the New Testament involves and is based upon not only love for each other, but also a commonality of faith and understanding. We are to speak the same things, and have one mind (belief).
But even if we did not have such plain commandments, the fact is that such shallow “unity” simply does not work. We innately understand that conflicting views of the nature and will of God and Christ are not compatible. In any time of stress, they will erupt and cause major strife. This has been the proven historical truth for hundreds of years.
The word homogenize probably is most recognizable to many of us because of its use relative to milk. Whole milk separates if left alone. Fat in the form of cream will rise to the top and the clearer liquid will remain on the bottom. But if milk undergoes homogenization the two separate ingredients are united and remain inseparably together so long as the milk exists. So in Christ, “we die, and are hidden in him” (my paraphrase). In other words, we undergo the process of homogenization (it means to be made to be the same).
When Christians humble themselves to obey their Lord and become lowly in heart, bearing with one another in love, true unity results. Though physical differences remain, they no longer matter. All are in Christ. May we always accept his will and live by his love so that all will know we are his (see John 13:35).