We believe that it is either unity OR diversity. But…Paul believes that the healthiest and most unified body is a diverse body.
There is an old Sunday-school song “Bind us together, Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken.” Maybe you sang those simple lyrics as a kid. Even though the lyrics are simple, the meaning is deep. It is a song that mirrors the prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-26, where Jesus prays for all believers and says “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” It is at the heart of Jesus, that those who are called by His name are united by the central focus of His life, death and resurrection. A key marker of the family of God is that we are bound together, united in the love of God shown in Christ Jesus.
The Apostle Paul picks up this idea of unity multiple times in Romans, Ephesians, Colossians and in 1 Corinthians 12. There in 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the metaphor of a human body to describe the body of Christ, His church. Many translations title the section that starts at verse 12, “Unity and Diversity in the Body.” It seems that too often we hold unity and diversity in polemic tension. We believe that it is either unity OR diversity. But that is not the case for Paul. He believes that the healthiest and most unified body is a diverse body. It is in diverse skills, abilities, ideas and perspectives bound together in Christ who is the body’s head that brings about unity. But how can this be? If we are to represent Christ well, we are to be diverse and unified. How do we do that? Paul continues, in what might be one of the most popular of his writings often called the “love chapter.” 1 Corinthians 13 is where Paul informs the people of Corinth then, and us today, that it is love that binds us together. Love. The love of God in Christ Jesus is what makes it possible for Christians to be unified and diverse. There are issues, topics, and tensions that will tear apart communities, but that won’t happen for the body of Christ. The body of Christ will be bound together because of love. Love that went so far as to die for us and save us from sin and death. We will not, we cannot, be torn apart if we are in Christ Jesus!