It was a delightful meal. One of my children, however, had turned their nose up at the food. “Ewww,” came the reply. Picking through the food, I watched this child struggle to eat every bite. “Com’on!” came my encouragement. “You can do it!” We all have to give and take a bit!
And then came dessert: coconut cream pie. The kids knew that I wasn’t so keen on it. “Com’on, dad! You can do it!”
Every family member has unique tastes: some are delight and others…not so much! Learning to be a family, however, means learning to give and take because we love one another.
The same is true in the body of Christ. “Have the same love…prefer one another,” Paul tells the Philippians “looking not to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:4-5).
Yet it is so easy to create little factions in the body of Christ. A favourite teacher (Paul? Apollos? Cephas? Christ? See 1 Cor 1:12). Or spiritual elites (tongues, anyone? See 1 Cor. 12-14). How about how free I am to exercise Christian liberties over your weak conscience (see 1 Cor. 8)? Hymns vs. choruses. Organic food vs. No Frills. Expressiveness vs. solemnity. Homeschool vs. public school. And on and on the list goes.
Too often, the church hammers away at unity, but often at the expense of diversity, forgetting the essential nature of love. The one God is united in essence and purpose, yet diverse as the triune God in complementary roles and responsibilities, connected in love. We are one with Christ, seated with him in the heavenlies, and yet distinct from Christ, who loved us and gave himself up for us. All believers comprise the one universal church, and yet each church is distinct in her make-up, uniquely bringing the gospel to bear on the life of her community.
One day, we will stand before the throne of grace together, with all of our distinct languages, cultural backgrounds, and unique gifts. Yet together we will worship the One True Living God and be one in purpose. Heaven will be a world of love where my brother’s worship, unique gifts, and greater rewards will only be an encouragement to my worship of God.
And if heaven is a world of love where we are one in heart and mind and purpose but unique in our gifts, backgrounds, and expressions of delight, then I must learn to love now. Unity isn’t something we create, manufacture, or push. It is a by-product of love. I may not like Kentucky bluegrass music, but I love my brother in Christ who does, and I will learn to delight in his delight in God.
Pass the coconut cream pie. I hope you’ll enjoy that extra big slice. But I’ll take a very small slice, if you please!