Celebrating Diversity

Recently I’ve been writing a number of posts for my wife’s devotional list, and occasionally I like to highlight one of those devotionals on a blog. Today, such highlighting gives me an opportunity to also highlight quite shamelessly our Christmas sale price on her devotional book Daily Devotions of Ordinary People – Extraordinary God.

(12)Because just as the body is one but has many parts, and all the body’s parts are one body, so it is with Christ. (13)For you were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether you were Jews or gentiles, slaves or free before, and all of you have drunk of one Spirit. (14)For the body is also not one part, but many. — 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

What do you do about people who are very different than you are? Do you tolerate them? Do you avoid them? Do you make them feel uncomfortable? Do they make you feel uncomfortable?

I’m not talking about people from other countries. I’m talking about the folks that share space with you at work, or share a pew with you at church. What about that overly enthusiastic children’s worker who likes to make announcements and give testimonies that consist of little words punctuated exclusively with exclamation points and never come to an end? Probably some of you are that talkative, enthusiastic, bubbly children’s worker! Well, then, how about the slow speaking person who gives announcements in big words and skips most of the details so he can sit down?

We generally think Paul was mainly talking about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. But spiritual gifts were only his major illustration. They’re certainly a big one. But what Paul was saying was that the way gifts work together illustrates the way we all need to work together. His illustration goes from the body, where we can all understand how obvious it is that we need the nose, the eyes, hands, and so forth, to bring the body to full function. From there we look at gifts and how we can’t all use the same gifts, but rather we combine gifts to make a greater whole.

But at the foundation of all this is the variety of people that we were before we became Christians, before we accepted the breath of the Holy Spirit, who are now all one—one breath, one spirit, becomes one body.

And Paul was all excited about it! The body is not one part, but many. He was excited all his life about how God was now bringing gentiles into his kingdom. He was excited because both slaves and free people could become part of the body. He was excited because both men and women could be part of the body.

Sometimes we like to make order by fitting everyone into one box. It’s disturbing when people are too different. We want to make them the same, safe, reasonable (by our standards), controllable. But that’s not God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is risky. God’s kingdom brings people in from everywhere, off the streets and alleyways, from the parks, and yes, from the universities as well. That guy down the pew, with a PhD in a subject you can’t pronounce, much less comprehend, is also part of God’s kingdom. The woman who’s preaching—she’s part of God’s kingdom as well. The young man who’s helping in the nursery—he’s one of God’s helpers.

Let’s celebrate it and grow!

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