(Written to go with a sermon on Hebrews 11:29-40, especially verse 40.)
Diversity is all the rage these days. It seems you can’t turn on the news without hearing about another complaint that some aspect of our society doesn’t reflect the actual mix of people who live here. People agonize over whether people of a certain gender or ethnic background are under-represented. In the name of diversity publishers force authors to change the backgrounds of the characters in their books, even though it detracts from the story.
Now diversity can be a wonderful thing. Can you imagine how boring this world would be if everyone else was exactly like you? I think that God made us different for a very good reason. Often it is our differences which makes life interesting. As any parent who has more than one child can tell you, each person has his or her own personality and that adds spice to family life. I grew up in a different culture, among people who look different than I do, who speak a different language, who think differently. I can tell you that my life has been richer and, I think better, because of it.
But while diversity is wonderful, like anything else, it can lead to trouble and tragedy if emphasized too much. A group of people must also have things in common or diversity quickly leads to division. You see, differences inevitably cause friction or misunderstanding. When it does, we need something which is larger than ourselves, a common purpose or an agreed-upon goal to keep us living and working together in harmony.
This is true not only of families and society at large but, also, in the church. Here in the church we have a lot in common in spite of our differences. All of us realize, that no matter who we are, every single one of us has failed to meet God’s expectations. We’re all sinners. Every one of us knows that we are incapable of earning salvation. Every single one of us needs the sacrifice of Jesus to pay the debt we owe.
It is Jesus, and our commitment to Him, which enables us to live in harmony with each other even though we are different. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:11-14 NIV)
Unity doesn’t come naturally. It’s something we have to work at. And this is one reason we gather each week to eat bread and drink a cup in remembrance of Christ and what He did for us. We call this ritual ‘Communion.’ It reminds us of what binds us together. As we eat, we fellowship, not just with Christ, but also with each other. It reminds us that it is Christ’s sacrifice which breaks down the barriers which once divided us.
Today, as we eat and drink use the time to forgive anyone in the body against whom you have a grievance. Re-commit to love, and get along with, those who are different than you. After all, Christ loved and forgave us even though we are far different than Him!