abandoned church

A picture of the church achieving diversity through unity? Likely not.

Achieving diversity in any group requires us to “grow outside the box.”

We can get there by showing hospitality to visitors who want to join in. The Bible encourages us to do this, being receptive to all people, including non-believers, coming into the church. Should we allow sinners to participate? Absolutely. We’re all sinners, right? Further, going beyond a simple invitation to making everyone feel a part of our body of believers.

Reading through the book of Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3, you’ll find there are some words of the Lord for the seven churches of Asia Minor. If you visit some churches today, you can find those who actually represent these churches described in the Book of Revelation – The Churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Mere coincidence? Ummm, likely not. Research clearly shows that many churches today go through a life-cycle – some flourishing while they’re focused on doing things right and doing the right thing, others withering and fading away…

My thought here is that achieving diversity through unity is one of these “doing things right.” Consider the Church at Philadelphia – referred to by Jesus as “the church of the open door.” Geographically, this community was built-in a frontier area as a gateway to the central plateau of Asia Minor. The open door also represents a church that is a portal of invitation by spreading the Gospel – thereby making the door to salvation an equal opportunity to everyone. Further, the people of Pergamum, where the church of Philadelphia is located, were considered living in a fragile area, physically due to earthquakes but also spiritually as they were under attack spiritually (is this sounding familiar in comparison to modern-day believers/followers?) Jesus even recognized the spiritual endurance and patience of these people, and encouraged them to hold on in a broken world…

Contrasting to the Church at Sardis, a body of believers who had a solid reputation, Jesus spoke… “I know your deeds”… and stating they are spiritually dead – rich and cocky, having soiled their clothes… most but not all… they focused inward and exchanged the spirit of unity for the comforts of this world…

We need to reach that happy stage of our development when differences and diversity are not seen as sources of division and distrust, but of strength and inspiration. Josefa Iloilo

Diversity is the greatest factor in unity, as unity is defined as a state of oneness, harmony and a totality or related parts. (Click To Tweet) It means we are undivided, regardless of the differences we may share in some areas of our lives or beliefs. That only happens with diversity.

I’m not referring to the bad actors we know as the wolves here. Paul forewarned us that wolves would mix within our congregations as soon as he left, so we can be certain they’re already present. However, many of them are difficult to spot! They “blend in” by wearing the sheep’s clothing. Literally, that’s what the Bible says. Many also prey on the innocent. They only like parts of the Gospel, refusing to strap on the sword of the Spirit, or the Word of God, which should be savored in all of its Glory. Remember, the wolf is an extremely social animal, they run in packs where they have close ties and loyalties. As it relates to unity, these packs are like having five index fingers… they won’t work together on a single hand when it attempts to attach to the body. One can’t replace the thumb with an index finger or a big toe for that matter… and why would we want to? Here’s an interesting interpretation of the wolves… while they may take the face of the sexually immoral, they’re more often noted as those who disrupt unity and harmony in our church today. Why do I bring all this up about the wolves? Remember, the folks on Sardis Street looked good on the outside however their clothes were soiled…

Think of it this way… the Bible tells us the church, the bride or Christ, is made up of one body with many parts. All of the parts have to fit and work together. This, to me, is the perfect picture of unity… and of achieving it through diversity. That’s how we get there in the “conflict of the two ages” or this time before Jesus returns to unite us within the fold… in the meantime, were all players on a chessboard… where will you fall in the battle between good and evil? In Isaiah Chapter 56, the Lord says, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the people.”

And Jesus’ final words to each of the 7 churches? “He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” In fact, He repeats it several times in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation.

If you had to pick a body part, what part do you see yourself as in the body of believers?

Image courtesy of Joey Lax-Salinas