The church’s unity in diversity

What a magnificent Easter! My wife and I have seen two excellent large-scale musical/drama productions this Easter: Face to Face and So High the Price at two large local churches. One was a large pentecostal church, and another was a large evangelical church. I couldn’t help but notice the two different styles and emphases. The pentecostal’s Face to Face tended to show more miraculous healing scenes and gospel narratives. The evangelical’s So High the Price showed only one healing scene but mostly scenes of non-healing gospel narratives. The pentecostal church had a very well-trained and professional feel in its music and drama, which is likely due to its emphasis in contemporary worship music and teaching style. Whereas, the evangelical church had a very good orchestra. Each church had its own strengths. After reflecting upon the various scenes from the two fine productions, I remember that each one had scenes that the other did not have. If I were to have seen only one production, I would have missed some valuable and important scenes and music that were not present in the other production. But when I put the two together, I got a fuller picture of Jesus’ story.

So what is my point in all of this? This is also how we can think of the universal church. All churches, all denominations, and all traditions have different areas in which they like to emphasize. Therefore, all of us have become accustomed to our own particular theology through the preaching and teaching we hear. This is a part of the invaluable religious/spiritual enculturation process. I used to be isolated within only one style of worship and theology, and therefore, heard one side of the Christian story. But now, after having voluntarily exposed myself to seeing and hearing the different views of the wider Christian church, I am able to be more welcoming to the different ways of viewing the bible and understanding theology. Each of our different views in the universal church are not necessarily opposed to one another. They are just different and can offer all of us a fuller picture of who Jesus is and how he works in all of our lives. There can be unity in diversity.

There are many well-meaning Christians who may be afraid of diversity for fear that too much diversity may bring about disunity or disharmony. This danger may be countered when we leave room for Christ Jesus to occupy the first priority in our lives. It is only through the power of Holy Spirit who can give each of us the courage, openness, and the liberty to deal with all our differences. God is bigger than all of our differences and it is only through the Spirit that we can be renewed with a larger capacity to receive, even a theology, that is bigger than our own. As fellow believers of one household of faith (oikoumene) from various traditions, let us be encouraged to listen to, and try to understand one another, even if the other’s viewpoint may seem opposed to our own understanding of theology. I am definitely not talking about collapsing our individual theologies into one, nor even a formation of an organic union of denominations; I am talking about a unity in the Spirit! I believe that spiritual unity is the will of God. I have found that through this openness, my capacity to think theologically and be welcoming of other theological points of views has increased. I do admit that I still have my personal biases but this cannot be avoided, due to the fleshly limitations that is common within each human being. I also admit that this is difficult because we still desire to aim for an orthodox theology. Open-mindedness should not mean that we forfeit our freedom to think critically. God has given each of us the right and the ability to think critically of our theology. Critical thinking is a requirement of “working out” a good sound theology. An openness to the critical ideas of one another can help us build a better overall understanding of the scriptures and of biblical theology. For the sake of one, catholic, and apostolic church, let us remain open to the Spirit’s work of building unity in the midst of, what may seem like, chaotic diversity.

…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (NET Bible, Eph.4:2-6).

Sorry if I lost your comments from this post. I had to delete the original post due to a Blogger problem, then re-post the entry.

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