Finding Unity in Diversity Through Christ
*This is the text of a talk I gave at the Provo Pride Interfaith Night at the Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ.
One of my favorite examples of finding unity in diversity is through Christ.
The word Christ comes from the Greek word christos, which means “anointed” or “anointed one.” More specifically, this mean to be anointed with oil, because God has chosen you to accomplish God’s work. According to biblical text, Jesus as a Christ was chosen, anointed by God to be the exemplar and Savior of the world.
However, Jesus also invited each of us to join him as members of the body of Christ. We are taught that we are all the body of Christ, “For as the body is one, and hath many members […] Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12)
As members of the body of Christ we are God’s hands, feet, legs, eyes, heart, lungs, mind, and body. The body of Christ is explicitly diverse. Without diversity, functionality of the body would be lost. (1 Corinthians 12: 14-22)
Imagine your own body as a metaphor for the body of Christ. You body is composed of many different types of cells. Though your cells have different functions, they work in unison to achieve a specific goal—to keep you alive. Now, imagine your body without skin cells to protect your internal anatomy. Or imagine your body composed only of liver cells. Consider a body with no blood cells. The functionality of the human body depends on its diversity. You depend on diversity.
In the body of Christ, each part is a valued member. The body of Christ is described as being one with its members and every member, even the members perceived as being feeble and necessary. (1 Corinthians 12:22) God is no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34) God did not say that we all need to have the same sexual orientation, that we need to identify with our gender assignment, that we need to have the same skin color, or that we need to belong to the same religious denomination to be a valued member of the body of Christ. No. God said each diverse member is a valued member.
The scriptures say “that there should be no schisms” in the body of Christ. (Corinthians 12:25) Some have taken the concept of “no schisms” to mean there should be no difference—that we should all homogenize into sameness: the same likings, the same preferences, the same labels, the same functions, the same traditions, even the same religion. Yet that is the exact opposite of how the body of Christ operates. So what does is mean to have “no schisms” in the body of Christ? Well, I’m here to tell you in the answer is in the same verse as the warning. The scriptures tell us “no schisms” means “that the members should have the same care one for another.” (1 Corinthians 12:25). It warns us that we should not be apathetic to the needs of others. No schisms is not the condemnation of difference. No schisms is the condemnation of indifference. “No schisms” means we must care for one another, while respecting our differences. It means when one member suffers, we all suffer. (1 Corinthians 12:25) It means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. (Romans 15:12) It seems impossible to live in such a godly paradox of constant weeping and rejoicing, but this is the unifying aim. Put simply, “no schisms” in the body of Christ means to love one another as yourself. (John 13:34)
When Jesus invited each of us to join him in the body of Christ we are not only disciples in thought, but also in deed. Faith without works is dead. (James 2:26) As members of the body of Christ, this means each of us is anointed to do God’s work, which is to follow the example of Jesus. And what did Jesus tell us to do? Jesus told us the greatest commandment was to love God and love your neighbor. All other commandments hinge on the commandment thou shalt love, because to love your neighbor is to love God. There is no clear distinction between the two. If you have done it unto one of the least of God’s children, you have done it unto God. (Matthew 25:40) This implicitly means God allows atheists into the body of Christ. If you are an atheist and you are loving your neighbor (Mark 12:31), clothing the naked, healing the sick, feeding the hungry (Matthew 25:35-37), and comforting those that stand in need of comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4)—so far as God is concerned, you are loving God. According to the scriptures, if you are loving your community, you are loving God.
We must love each other in all our diversity—not despite of diversity. Our diversity is not something to simply be tolerated, but rather valued and celebrated. It is our diversity in the body of Christ that makes God’s work on earth a tangible reality. We are anointed to do so. While we may have many differences, let love, compassion, and charity be the elements which unify the body of Christ.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.