Unity and Diversity in the Body of Christ
Open Your Bible
Ephesians 4:1-16, Acts 2:42-47, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
I work for a multisite church, which means we are one church with several congregations. We follow the same sermon series, share resources, and build joint efforts to serve our city, country, and the world. We contextualize for our specific locations, neighborhoods, and members, but at the end of the day, we are one church. Is it always easy? No. But it’s a beautiful exercise in practicing what it means to be God’s global Church: one holy Body serving the one holy God.
We live in a non-unique time in church history, where denominations are shrinking and splitting and the global Church is grappling with what it means to be the unified people of God. There are myriad ecclesiological debates about who or what makes a Christian, where and how we should worship, how we should engage in the public square, and many more issues.
Paul knows more than a little about this, because church debates are nothing new. The entire letter of Galatians is about sifting the truth of the gospel out of the false teachers who add to it. In 1 Corinthians, we are warned against potential divisions in the church, while 1 Thessalonians celebrates the Church coming together in the face of persecution. Colossians urges believers to stay focused on Jesus in the midst of a world that isn’t.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians includes a series of “one” statements that describe the Church, and they appear in today’s reading from chapter four. The Church, preserved by the unity of the Holy Spirit, is one Body (Ephesians 4:4), has one Spirit (v.4), has one hope (v.4), with one Lord (v.5), one faith (v.5), one baptism (v.5), and one God and Father of all (v.6).
Like wet clay on a pottery wheel, these seven statements spin together the foundation of the Church. Without form, clay stays lumpy, spread out, without shape or purpose. But when run through the wet hands of a skilled potter, the purpose, form, and intent become clear. The Church is made up of humans, fallible and foolish. But in the skilled and steadfast hands of our Father, the Church becomes beautiful, useful, and good.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes about the many expressions of the Body of Christ. When I was a child, I thought this meant something incredibly small: that if I was good at singing, someone else was good at preaching, and together we would make a church service. But the older I get, the more I see just how big the Church Paul is describing truly is. I make my home in a denomination that is known for certain things—certain strengths and convictions, a loyalty to Scripture and grace. I have dear friends who make their homes in very different denominations, but who bring to God’s kingdom an emphasis on justice and mercy, lovingkindness and care for the poor and marginalized. Still others emphasize the beauty of being born again, of fighting the ongoing stain of sin on our lives. We are a symphony, each bringing the strength of our instruments to bear in service of the whole.
When we are raised together in resurrection days, the one thing that will unite us is our belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He died, was buried, and rose again. We share, collectively, in one resurrection. I pray for Church unity. I pray for forgiveness and peace, and I am thankful for a God who reconciles all things to Himself. Being part of the Church Body isn’t always easy, but it is beautiful. May we rejoice in being one Body, with one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism—and of one God and Father.