Jesus Wants Both Oneness and Diversity

– By Ron Simkins, from his teaching at New Covenant on January 17, 2010

Jesus wants oneness and diversity in the body of Christ. Is there a reason to begin again in our efforts to achieve that?

As a person who grew up with almost every possible prejudice deeply ingrained in my mind and heart by the cultural environment I grew up in, I want to make several challenges.

#1 – JESUS DOES WANT BOTH ONENESS & DIVERSITY among his followers. John 17 contains Jesus’ prayer, promise, and challenge for a oneness among his followers that is so strong that the world will be confronted with the reality of God’s presence in Jesus.  At the same time, the book of Revelation tells us that the Kingdom over which Jesus reigns forever will be one in which every tribe, nation, ethnicity, and language worships and serves together (ch. 7) and in which the best gifts of each of those cultures are contributed to the society over which Jesus reigns (ch. 21).  Our experiences may lead us to think that this polarity between spiritual oneness and diversity is impossible to hold together; and often that is true.  But, God is a God of empowering the impossible among us (Mark 16:26-27).

#2 – JESUS CAN ENGAGE EACH OF US IN A GENUINE PROCESS OF TRANSFORMATION. Though I know that all of my prejudices are not completely healed (no one’s ever are), I can personally attest to great transformations in both mind and heart through my 45 year relationship with Jesus.  These transformations have touched my attitudes and actions with regard to gender, race, ethnicity, economic status, educational status, etc.

#3 – As a fellowship, we of New Covenant Fellowship have genuinely tried to embrace this polarity of spiritual oneness and diversity since our beginnings.

#4 – Sometimes, we have done as well or better than any group or church that I personally know of in embracing this challenge.

#5 – Nevertheless, we have also experienced tragic failures and heartbreaks in this area throughout our 34-year history. People on all sides of various issues have left hurt and wounded, and people on all sides of those same differences have stayed in NCF but experienced hurt and wounding as well.  We should not make excuses for our failures.  Just admit them straight up to God, ourselves, and others.

#6 – So, we must choose. Do we give up? Do we keep mouthing the words, but essentially give up by no longer taking the bold risks that embracing both spiritual oneness and diversity demand?  (Risks for which we often do not have a very detailed road map nor a very clear sense of how to accomplish the goal.)  Or, do we admit our failures; accept Jesus’ forgiveness; and accept Jesus’ challenge, promise, and empowering as we risk embracing oneness and diversity in the body of Christ?

TO SUMMARIZE:

EMBRACE the IMPOSSIBILITY
EMBRACE the FORGIVENESS
EMBRACE the PROMISE
EMBRACE the EMPOWERING

3 Comments On “Jesus Wants Both Oneness and Diversity”

  1. One question that came up at lunch when we were discussing the teaching: What risks, both individually and corporately as NCF, do you have in mind? Examples of risks you have found yourself unable to take because of past hurts, or risks NCF was unable to take would also help us understand what we are turning from and turning towards.

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  2. Good questions Renee. I wrote a long paragraph and then realized I was using other people’s names without their permission; so I have backed up. I would love to sit and think as well as brainstorm about your question with you. As for my own failures to take risks, that I can speak about without anyone else’s permission. I think I sometimes duck actions that would be faithful because I cannot figure out how to keep them from looking like American party politics. I almost retired because I didn’t want to appear grasping or unwilling to let go, when all the time I did not really think the Lord was pushing me to do so at all. I still don’t think we/I have been creative enough with pushing for discussions and prayers on how to be a loving, faithful, obedient community on the hotbutton issues of the day. And, I don’t think we have taken enough risks with a deeper level of multi-ethnic worship because it always begins by feeling uncomfortable,forced, and overly intentional at first. Probably could name many more, but that is a start. Thanks, Ron S

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  3. That was the line from your teaching that stuck with me the most, too: We often continue forward with an issue in word, but we stop taking risks. I see that in my own life (different situations, both past and present) and I think you touched on some great examples within New Covenant:

    “I still don’t think we/I have been creative enough with pushing for discussions and prayers on how to be a loving, faithful, obedient community on the hotbutton issues of the day. And, I don’t think we have taken enough risks with a deeper level of multi-ethnic worship because it always begins by feeling uncomfortable, forced, and overly intentional at first.”

    I’m glad you brought up creativity in the problem-solving process. I think that’s one of the key gifts God has given us, yet somehow, as Christians, we often seem prone to stuffing it away, like we’re worried our creativity might get us in trouble. And I’m glad you brought up the issues surrounding multi-ethnic worship, because acknowledging those, as a community, is the first step toward making them less uncomfortable.

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