Proclaiming the Unsearchable Riches of Christ (See 3:8)
True “Unity In Diversity”
“Unity in Diversity” is the rallying cry in most of today’s churches. What is meant by this ecumenical motto is that it is not important what people believe and teach about the “details” of their faith. As long as people acknowledge that there is a God and that people should strive to better themselves–well, that’s all that any religion is about at heart, anyway, isn’t it? While some would say that it is important to confess that Jesus is Lord, many would not even press that point too strongly.
The truth of the matter is that God does, in fact, teach us about “unity in diversity” in Ephesians chapter four. Please take a few minutes to read the chapter, and you will see that the Lord calls us to be unified in our doctrine, while accepting diversity in the roles to which He calls us in His service.
UNITY IN OUR DOCTRINE
It is a common misconception that, because many well-intentioned people teach different things about God, the church, the way to heaven, baptism, and other things, that God has left these matters open to varying “interpretations.” Quite the opposite, says the apostle Paul! There is ONE Body, ONE Spirit, ONE Hope of your calling, ONE Lord, ONE Faith, ONE Baptism, ONE God and Father of all–and these things are not defined by majority vote, but by the Lord Himself in the Scriptures.
In verses 13 and 14 we are urged to come to “unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . . that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” True and God-pleasing unity, then, comes about because we stand together under the doctrines of the Word of God. It is an immature and vulnerable Christian who supposes that differences in teaching don’t matter. True Christian maturity means 1) being fully committed to the principle that God’s Word is always right no matter what anybody else may say; and 2) giving careful study to that Word so that you know what it says for yourself.
DIVERSITY IN OUR CALLING
While the Lord wants us to be united in doctrine when it comes to our Christian fellowship, we all know that a church is a diverse group of people, and in any such group there are going to be differences. One of these is the wide variety of talents and responsibilities that is found in a particular congregation or synod. This is something that the Lord Jesus gives to us as a blessing. It is the risen and ascended Christ who “gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Pastor or member, man or woman, young or old–all have a God-given role to play for service to Christ and His people.
Sadly, because of the sinful nature that still clings to us, we will many times have trouble dealing with the wide variety of human foibles, weaknesses, and failings that are also found in every Christian family of faith. Here is where tolerance and Christ-like love must come to the fore. That is why Paul pleads with Christians “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.”
Dr. Martin Luther commented along these same lines: “Accept it that we are not the same in life and walk, and one who has a different way is amazing to the other: one must let that go and happen. For one cannot make everything as straight as an arrow and all along the same lines when it comes to morals and life. As long as we are united in the correct, pure doctrine–there not even the least bit may be impure and false; rather everything must be pure and choice, as from a dove. There no tolerance nor overlooking nor love avails; for a little leaven leavens the whole lump, as St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 5:6.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. XXII, p. 820f).
Unity under the Word of God, diversity in calling, with Christian love governing all–that is the Lord’s own plan for growth and blessing in a Christian congregation. As God defines it, “unity in diversity” is a good thing, after all!
–Pastor Bruce Naumann