Let us embrace unity in the midst of our diversity

Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My inaugural contribution to Living and Growing is accompanied by a host of feelings. Among them, sadness at the passing of longtime contributor, Kathleen Wakefield, yet gladness that she is finally home in glory (Please pray comfort for family and friends missing her).

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Excitement is also in the mix, with its upbeat companion eagerness. And I saw humility sneak in through the back door - but he doesn't show up too often.

Is it really possible to experience such a wide range of emotions simultaneously? Yes, certainly. We've all experienced times of bitter-sweetness and anger-frustration. Our occasional inner dissonance is indicative of the multihued perception palette Father God has given each of us.

That same creative diversity is further expressed through the endless variety of his people as a whole. Yet what we mistake for dissonance within the Church - his body - is actually the harmony he intended.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this in his first letter to the young church at Corinth, an influential city in Greece. Apparently, immature believers in Corinth had unwittingly allowed themselves to fall into divisive doctrinal camps.

They became convinced that each ones' own Christian practices were seminally right and that others' were inherently wrong.

Paul attempts to correct this error by reminding them, "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free-and have all been made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:11-13, New King James Version).

Paul goes on to illustrate the point by using the various parts of the human body to describe its wondrous individual functionality working in harmony for mutual benefit - the very picture of the unity in diversity.

It seems to me that we, the sheep of his pasture, like the Corinthians of long ago, have often allowed divisions to come into the fold. We've spent an inordinate amount of time and energy pointing out the "doctrinal problems" among us rather than allowing His love and grace - which he so perfectly exampled for us - to rule over these differences.

However, there are some hopeful indications that we can overcome this tendency to draw distinctions between branches and focus instead on the message of the true vine. The various multi-church food banks, clothing distributions and near-unanimous support by the churches of Juneau for the work of Love INC (In the Name of Christ) are such examples. A great deal of blessing to the needy emanates from those behind and inside these ministries.

This is the heart and vision behind RealLife, the new Foursquare Church in Juneau (www.reallifefoursquare.org). Our desire is to provide opportunities to experience true discipleship by laboring together in a spirit of unity, ministering in harmony with other churches and para-church organizations, and meeting the many unmet basic needs in our community. We call this vision "Faith at Work."

This first installment to Living and Growing is an open letter of encouragement and invitation to other churches and para-church organizations in town to embrace unity in the midst of our diversity and thereby to the continue and expand the good works being done in His name. During the time of year we set aside to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives, RealLife stands ready to partner with those who share this vision. Let's all put our faith to work - together.

• Mark Everett is Senior Pastor of RealLife Church in Juneau.

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