Growing up, I thought the end goal of life was a homogeneity of
belief in the people around me. I expected everyone to draw the same
conclusions from the things they heard, read or saw as I did. But,
recently, I’ve come to believe that diversity is a beautiful thing
because it helps us see God more clearly.
Now, before I go further, let me say there is a limitation to the
liberality with which we can apply this principle of diversity of
opinion. I do believe there has to be a strong foundation of biblical
understanding and maturity in an individual as they think about
diversity—or else the likely end will be that destructive lack of
ideals called pluralism. My comments here are more applicable to the
expression of those shared biblical principles which all Christians
With that said, the homogeneity I grew up thinking was the ideal is
perhaps as equally destructive as pluralism, especially when the Church
attempts to get each person to embody a perfect balance of this or
that. We should certainly be in the constant state of becoming more
Jesus-like, but it seems like there is a misunderstood spiritual
idealism of “we’re all the same.” That homogenous thinking is the
direct result of the individualized, industrialized, solitary life of
our culture at large—a culture in which, as I recently heard a friend
say, “everyone bowls alone.”
Let’s look at some of relationships that seem to stand in opposition to one another.
– The intellectuals (those who pursue God through mental understanding)
and the mystics (those who pursue direct communion with God through
spiritual discipline and experience)
- Those who tend toward justice and those who tend toward mercy
– Those who crave ritual and tradition and those who desire something new
The list goes on.
Recently, I’ve seen more clearly than ever the roles certain
individuals have filled in my life and in the church community I’m a
part of. In the past, I have attempted to recruit others to my side of
the ideological aisle. But now I’m learning that, as in the cases
above, both sides have a strong biblical foundation for being true.
Therefore, the response can be one of two things: an air or
superiority or a spirit of cooperation. We can continue on in our
belief that our opinions are the ones everyone must share or
conversely, understand our tendencies and personality types are meant
to be a small part of a complete picture assembled in the context of
Who better to bring the intellectual down from the pedestal of her
own mind and into the reality of faith than a mystic? And who to ensure
the mystic takes seriously the “testing of the spirits” than the
Who better to soften the blow of the judge than the merciful? And
who better to ensure that the merciful are not abused than the judge?
Who better to connect the new to the past than the traditionalist?
And who better to instill fresh life into the ritualistic than the zeal
of the young?
Our differences can lead to arguments or to better understanding.
And while I will continue to have tendencies and individual beliefs,
my interaction with those different from me can lead to some change.
Over the last year, I’ve tempered my harsh words. I’ve become more
aware of the ways in which people receive instruction. And I’ve learned
how to love more. But these things didn’t just happen. I look more like
Jesus in these areas of my life because I’m learning to listen to those
who are different than me.
What are your God-given tendencies? Are you listening to voices that differ from your own? What are you learning?