Divine Diversity

The second in the Stream's special series on #ChristianUnity

By James Robison Published on October 25, 2017

Editor’s note: This is the second piece in our series on Christian Unity.

The apostle Paul urged believers in Rome to “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16 NIV). The interesting thing about harmony is that it isn’t sameness. In music, one person will sing the melody. Those who sing harmony sing something that is different but fits with the melody. A good harmony singer makes the melody all that more sweet.

There is great diversity in God’s Church: differences in style, ceremony, emphasis, ability, and other beautiful manifestations of the vastness of our Lord. God didn’t make two fingerprints, two snowflakes, or any two people the same; but with all of our diversity, we can have supernatural unity.

A Lesson From Billy Graham

If you had asked me years ago if I loved other people, I would have said yes. But I had learned from some church folks to develop a critical spirit that was not healthy. The fact is, dedicated Christians hold religious convictions even more strongly than any political concern. We often defend our beliefs in such a way that we actually contribute to our own defeat. Mean-spirited religious sectarianism has as much potential to damage people as racism or any other “-ism.”

I remember calling my friend Billy Graham and criticizing him quite forcefully for his association with people I deemed too liberal or non-evangelical because of his friendship with Catholics in America and in other countries. I even foolishly questioned his association with charismatics and Pentecostals. Dr. Graham was unfailingly gracious to me in that conversation. He said, “I really want to be careful that I’m not compromising. But tell me this: Do you know these people? Have you been around these people that you are talking about? Have you spent much time with them?”

It is sad to realize that while attempting not to compromise, we often find ourselves compromising the Great Commandment to love God and others appropriately.

I said, “No, I haven’t.”

He replied, “Well, I have, and I’ve found them to be very Christlike. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t have a crusade outside the United States without their help. If it were not for the Pentecostals and charismatics, I couldn’t have an effective crusade overseas.”

Unity Despite Differences

As I look back on that conversation, I realize that the same small-mindedness and hard-heartedness I exhibited is a tendency of many in the church. And we need to stop it. It’s not healthy, and it makes us insensitive to the heart of God. It deafens us to what the Lord is saying to His people.

Billy Graham inspired me to spend time with Christians and church leaders I had been critical of, and I experienced the transforming power of God’s love. As I got to know them better, I came to know Him better. I saw clearly there is only one perfect Person, and His name is Jesus. It is sad to realize that while attempting not to compromise, we often find ourselves compromising the Great Commandment to love God and others appropriately.

Showing love to others in the body of Christ does not mean we will never have disagreements, but let’s learn how to resolve our disagreements without being hateful. What have we accomplished if we “win” a debate but lose a brother?

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I have been blessed beyond measure when joining with other church leaders — Protestant and Catholic and all those who know Jesus personally as Lord and believe the Bible is God’s Word — to find common ground necessary to effectively address our common concerns.

When I am asked why I work with Catholics and those of different denominations, I answer, “Because I love everyone and will consistently, without compromising, faithfully seek to present God’s truth in love to everyone with ears to hear. If I appear unwilling to communicate with others or hear them, how can I expect others to willingly hear me?” The fact is, we all need to be seeking to more clearly hear God. I join with Jesus in praying for supernatural unity of the kind that has inspired spiritual awakening throughout history.

Standing Against the Gates of Hell

Let me re-emphasize: Supernatural spiritual unity is not sameness. It is love lifting us above our differences along with necessary diversity in order to pursue common goals for the glory of God and benefit of others. It is reaching out in love so we all continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Those who believe there is a Creator and Father God who expresses His love through Christ must recognize the importance of standing together as salt to preserve the innocent and all that is precious, and as light exposing evil and illuminating the best way in which to walk and live.

The enemies of God, faith, the Bible, moral principles, marriage, family and the right to life will never willingly give up an inch of the ground they seek to claim and control. They are determined to manipulate, dominate and even destroy. Unless those who profess a belief in God, His Son, the Holy Spirit and His Word as reliable begin standing together, then deception, darkness, then the defeat of true freedom will result. Believers must find common ground to resist the assault on truth — or the precious, will, as Jesus said, be “trampled under foot by men” (Matthew 5:13).

Let’s stop hiding behind our denominational differences, our stereotypes and our rhetoric.

Protestants and Catholics who know Christ must find ways to stand against the gates of hell while lifting up Jesus as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

I still have deep theological convictions, and one of them is to help tear down damaging walls that separate people while encouraging a dialogue that leads to healing, understanding and reconciliation. I’m tired of the division in the church and in our nation. I want to help bring people together, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Of course, truth does have a polarizing effect, but when truth is shared in the power of God’s love, it penetrates and influences all parties and groups for the better.

That’s why I am heartbroken when church leaders refuse to dialogue and interact honestly. And it disturbs me when I see religious people misrepresent the truth. Let’s stop hiding behind our denominational differences, our stereotypes and our rhetoric. Let’s speak the truth lovingly to each other and continue to build on the absolute principles that God set in His Word and seeks to establish in our hearts.

These are perilous times and difficulties lie in wait at every turn. But if we will commit ourselves to the principle that “love conquers all,” then we will find God’s love expressed through us — His Body supernaturally united — is sufficient to meet the pressing needs people face, and accomplish His kingdom will on earth, even in our lifetime.

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  • Paul

    Since this is part of a series I suggest linking to the other articles.

    As for this article, by my experience church leaders are often so wrapped up in controlling the message there is little room for alternative theological perspectives. When unity inside the building is defined as sameness, it is quite a contortion to then redefine unity outside the building in a context of diversity.

    In fact I’m dealing with this personally right now in my own church, the pastor and I are coming from very different perspectives and with his position of authority is dissuading activities in the church that don’t fit in his world view. Unity means sameness with his vision, anything not falling in line is shut down and relegated to the shadows of private initiative among members who are treated like outcasts.

    So if you want to talk about diversity in the church make sure it starts inside your own building, you know that ‘plank in your own eye’ sort of thing.

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    Sectarianism in the church has existed since at least as far back as Paul’s exhortations to the Corinthians. He called them carnal. He chastised them for their discounting the foundation upon which the church is built, which is Christ . Sure there will of necessity be differences among us. Hey, some of us are really “different”..! Now, that can be a good thing or it can be something other than good. The distinction would seem according to Paul to be predicated upon the grace that God gives to each one for their particular work in the building up of the body of Christ. We can appreciate the differences of others as long as we can appreciate their particular grace. Even among those w/whom we may never fully agree with. There are time when I wonder how an omniscient God can put up w/all of our discrepancies simultaneously ?! Then I recall that not because of who I am but because of who He is , He loves me ..! Yeah, thats how He does it. We need go & do like wise …..

  • tz1

    My problem with this is that it seems like so much fluff I can find nothing to agree with or oppose.
    Jesus said he came to bring a sword dividing even families.
    This post is so soft and squishy it is neither unifying or divisive.

    There are lines and some are inside and outside. You didn’t mention Mormons of Jehovahs witnesses (who I’ve found to be ACTING Christlike over more theologically orthodox). Yet there is an orthodoxy which ought to be presented in charity – but accept the confused instead of condemning them. No human knows God or about him. We can only see through the glass darkly. There are clear things which I am willing to condemn the acts (homosexuality, or even single-mother fornication) in charity aimed at redemption. The error is that we more often divide over theological – unknowable – minutiae instead of actual breeches of clear teaching on the commandments and how Christians should behave as evidence of good fruit.

    • Kathy

      I agree with most of your thoughts, but as for “theological – unknowable- minutiae”, Mormons and JW’s very clearly perverse Scripture, as does any denomination that adds to or deviates from the true Gospel found only in God’s Word.

      • tz1

        You assume your particular view of scripture is the ONLY correct one.
        John 6 says “unless you eat (gnaw on) my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you”, but I suspect you are not Catholic or Orthodox.
        Scripture says people have to be baptized. There are other controverseys.

        While I can identify Mormons and JWs as outside normal orthodoxy, I have trouble taking a very narrow view where ordinary people have to be theologically correct. I’d rather look at the fruit, and most JWs and Mormons are more obedient and are being blessed far more than the average Evangelical or Catholic.

        Perhaps we should try to argue with our obedience and greater achievement in the attempt at perfection than about biblical minutiae.

        • Kathy

          I agree that Mormon’s and JW’s are, in many ways, more obedient in their faith walk, but they have allowed fairly recent supposed revelations by men to change the inerrant Word of God. I did not know the details until I did some studying on my own. As you know, Mohammad did the same years before.

          JW’s believe that Christ provided them the opportunity to work for their salvation. Jesus said “It is finished” as he was dying on the cross…He paid the price in FULL for our salvation. Their belief is implying that His sacrifice was not enough. The Mormon’s ascribe to a more complicated salvation doctrine, and it deviates even more so from the true Gospel.

          My question for them would be “What was the point in Christ suffering such horrendous physical and spiritual torture when the wrath of God was poured out on Him if they still must “perform”. God may as well have just told everyone that they must work in order to be saved instead of going through the agony of sacrificing His dear Son. How would they ever know if they did enough work anyway?

          From what I understand, God does not give us many choices or options as to what to believe about Him, His commandments and His teachings. I believe it is only through His own Word that we can know, not through proclamations made by fellow fallen human beings when they differ from that Word.

  • PilgrimGirl

    Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?

    • PGMGN

      They surely do at the channel advertising themselves as “grace” and “truth”. Comments expounding the fullness of truth will be censored by “Progressing Pilgrim” who declared hid opinion infallible. Best to you ;^)

      • PilgrimGirl

        I can’t speak to that, PGMGN; my comment was what I was reminded of from the word when I read this very ecumenical article. God is love and He is also Holy and Just. Seems like all that’s heard these days is about love but so little (if anything) about His holiness and His justice.

        BTW, is your name an acronym? If so, would you detail it for me?

        Thanks :))

        • PGMGN

          “Seems like all that’s heard these days is about love but so little (if anything) about His holiness and His justice.”

          Nothing about justice sadly. And utterly no acknowledgment that we — by our own malice and lack of love for Him — can fall, losing that precious gift Christ humbled Himself and suffered so grievously to give us.

          Our hearts have grown hard via presumption. Doubling down on that doesn’t turn presumption into the virtue of hope either. “Not all who cry Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom.)

          The tag is an acronym for those members of my family. Thanks for asking.

          • PilgrimGirl

            A nice way to honor your loved ones. Thanks for sharing that!

            The gifts and calling of the LORD are without repentance. Salvation is of the LORD.

            Ever notice those who cry “Lord, Lord…” and hear our Lord say, “Depart from me, ye who work iniquity, I never knew you” boast in what they did?

          • PGMGN

            That’s the rub. They believed not in God but accounted their good works to themselves alone.

            Faith without works is dead. No Faith. Works with no Faith–as evidenced by those crying Lord, Lord –avail nothing.

            And yes, salvation is of the Lord. But we here below need to stay the course. This is why we petition the Father to forgive us our sins and lead us not into temptation. This life is a place of trial.

  • Irene Neuner

    As an evangelical I am able to see Catholic friends who have a relationship with Christ through the word and obedience to his commandments. Being steeped in Protestent theology and the Word I think that anyone who seeks truth with find it and anyone who gives there heart to God will love Christ or the Truth.

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