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Spiritual Unity Is not Natural

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series

"Diversity and Unity in the Body of Christ"

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Despite the God-ordained diversity of giftedness within the body of Christ, and even the providential diversity of gender, ethnicity, educational level, and socio-economic status, we are all members of one, unified body.

Now, is this natural? It is not natural for there to be unity right alongside diversity. I mean, it would be difficult enough for there to be unity with just functional diversity—usually, we much more naturally unify with those who have the same sorts of abilities we do, don’t we? Musicians like to hang out with musicians; history-buffs get along with history-buffs; accountants get along with accountants; and lawyers get along with lawyers. Our abilities and interests and functions draw us to those who are similar to us.

But as I mentioned earlier, there are other kinds of diversity within the church as well—diversity of gender, ethnicity, age, social class, education, and so many other things. And each one of us is characterized in these categories in very specific ways. I mean, you can’t be a different age than what you are. Despite an increasing belief in secular society, you can only be one gender, and it’s the gender you were both with. And each one of us has a certain background, a certain heritage, a certain ethnicity, and it is what it is simply by the providence of God. And even with something like education, vocation, and social status, you had a part to play in choosing those to some degree, but God has gifted and wired each one of us in different ways by his providence, and it is usually that natural giftedness that causes us to be interested in certain things and that leads us to pursue a particular life vocation. In other words, by the providence of God, you are what you are. God made you a certain way and gave you a certain background and orchestrated the circumstances of your life to bring you to where you are today.

But with that being the case, what kind of people are we typically naturally drawn to? What kind of people is it natural for us to unify with? People like us! I mean, I am a 38 year old, white, introverted, middle-class, male seminary professor and pastor with a PhD who grew up in Michigan and likes classical music and reading. That is who I am. Who is it natural for me to find unity with? Other 38 year old, white, introverted, middle-class male seminary professors and pastors with PhDs who grew up in Michigan and like classical music and reading. And, literally, some of my closest friends could be described exactly that way, with a few years difference here and there.

But that’s not the kind of unity Paul has in mind here. Paul is not talking about unity with people who are all alike, who have the same natural identity. He is not talking about unity of a bunch of eyes and unity of a bunch of hands and unity of a bunch of noses. Paul is talking about unity among people who are diverse from one another. He’s talking about unity between a person like me and a Texan born-and-bred, gun toting, plumber who’s never been north of the Mason-Dixon. This is not natural.

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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.