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Wednesday: Unity Amid Diversity — 16 Comments

  1. "In your association with others, put yourself in their place. Enter into their feelings, their difficulties, their disappointments, their joys, and their sorrows. Identify yourself with them, and then do to them as, were you to exchange places with them, you would wish them to deal with you. This is the true rule of honesty."
    Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing by Ellen G. White
    I remember our pastor in the middle of the sermon asked the congregation to switch from left side to right side.
    Living in my own comfort zone, I could still remember the experience of switching places.

  2. When does a difference of opinion become disunity?

    That depends upon what kind of unity I am seeking. If I am seeking the kind of unity where everyone is in agreement with what I believe, then any disagreement will be perceived by me as disunity.

    What if the kind of unity I am seeking is based upon a heart motivation of self-renouncing love that comes from a genuine abiding connection with God?

    You might have a completely different belief to me - even about aspects of salvation - but you have a genuine abiding connection with and reliance upon God and are consequently motivated by self-renouncing love.

    And I may have a completely different belief to you - even about aspects of salvation - but I have a genuinely abiding connection with and reliance upon God and am consequently motivated by self-renouncing love. Could you and I share a deep bond of unity in Christ even though we have different beliefs regarding aspects of salvation?

    How would Paul answer my question in light of what he wrote in Rom 14:7-12?

  3. Some three months ago, a group of young singers from Uganda, visited our church on their way to a camp meeting invitation from a church in Mombasa. The group performed some of their songs, which were lovely. However, some members of our congregation were keen to notice that they blended their singing with a little dancing (if I may say so). The ladies had worn a little make up too. This then became subject to debate for some, who judged them to be earthly forgetting that the music's message was on point.

    In another incident last year, during a wedding. The bridal party was asked by the Matron, to wipe of all the make up because it was not in order to put on make up according to our faith (she said). The bridal party had included members or friends of the bride who were not Adventists, but all the same were friends of the bride.

    The "eat meat" debate still remains a hot ticket. Some even defending themselves with Daniel 1 (Which to me, is more on worship and not food really). There is this talk of "God's original plan was we are to be vegetarian". I personally, have dropped eating meat out of personal choice but I've always tended to differ with this point of view.

    These are just some issues that I personally find taken a little overboard. In 1 Corinthians 3:2, Paul talks of giving milk and not solid food to new believers that were still learning the "way". Some of the issues we at times labor about, make us lose focus on some very important matters. We have a mission to reach out to the whole world and we need also to understand that we will find people with culture or background that is diverse, but all the same who "thirst" for the word of God. When we start shielding people from accessing our message of "truth" with conditionalities, then thus little intolerance would at times alienate our message.

    I agree that we cannot just accept all matters of differences and culture. We should not compromise our belief like they in Psalms 106:35-37; that's really not my point. The concern is some of these issues are really not matters of faith but matters that can be learned slowly as we share our prime mission to the world. We can take an example from the Council in Jerusalem maybe:

    “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” - Acts 15:19-21

    The point of focus here being "For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath" - that is, a little at a time, there will be time to teach more. We should be more welcoming, and our reach out will be more effective.

  4. Style of music, clothing, jewelry, personal adornments, are examples of those subjects which cause division in the 7th Day Adventist Church and should not be disputed, but only recognized that styles change but the substance remains.

  5. The diversity spoken of in scripture concerning the people of God, is not a diversity of fundamental beliefs or of following all that Jesus has commanded us to observe. In all this, there is room for differences of understanding and interpretation of those things not vital to salvation. As an example, there are some today who will not “pay” a parking fee on Sabbath even though it is where nature can be observed and studied in a peaceful environment, yet they will pay offerings for utilities, maintenance, paper products, etc, on Sabbath. In these and other similar practices, we will often find varying opinions and beliefs, but in this life, such differences will and can exist without bringing judgment upon each other.

    The eating of "clean" flesh food is also not a “test of fellowship”, and many use this to defend their choices even though it is meant to allow for those who live where a vegetarian diet is difficult to obtain. God is testing every soul to prove their faith or unbelief. In many things, we are not to bring any judgment where it is left between the individual and God to decide. The Lord knows every heart.

  6. It is interesting to me how when I asked the question at a gathering of Fellow SDA'S about what God used His ravens to bring to His Prophet Elijah to eat twice a day when Elijah was hiding from the wicked Queen Jezebel at the Brook Kidron for a significant period of time and most of those SDA'S including influential Church Officers did not know that along with BREAD the Ravens also brought Elijah "Flesh Meat." These SDA Officers were convinced that the Ravens only brought Elijah BREAD but no animal flesh at all.

    • Hi Pete. We Adventists are as prone as any other denomination to getting "stuck" in our beliefs to such a degree that new learning is virtually impossible. Sadly but understandably, this often comes across as hypocritical and fanatical to those who aren't Adventists.

      God didn’t only give "permission” to eat meat, He commanded it (Exodus 12:1-11) and ate it Himself (Gen 18:7-8). Jesus obeyed, even at His last meal before the cross (Luke 22:7-15). What did Jesus and his disciples eat every Passover? Red meat. What did Jesus ask his disciples for after His resurrection (Luke 24:40-43) and Himself cook for the disciples (John 21:5-14)? Meat.

      See also (Lev 11:1-3; Lev 11:9; Lev 11:21-23; Genesis 9:3).

  7. Whatever is on the inside will and can be seen on the outside, if we be citizens of the heavenly kingdom, our dress and actions will be that of the kingdom to which we belong.

  8. The author of our lessons seems to have a confused understanding of unity. We are lurching between unity being found in the things we believe and share in common, to unity being through diversity. These are two opposite influences. Diversity, "Racial, ethnic, and cultural barriers and walls that divide people within our own church today," is then said to be somehow important to unity. We can't have it both ways. Diversity is a simple reality. Identity politics wants these differences to define us, but they must be ignored or put aside Gal 3:28.
    "Unity Amid Diversity" is true of the Church but pretending "unity THROUGH diversity" is possible is wishful political correctness

    • A couple of questions so I can understand better where you are coming from John:

      Do you view unity as a uni-dimensional/uni-faceted or multidimensional/multifaceted construct?

      Paul draws heavily upon the analogy of the body in 1 Cor 12 to discuss unity and diversity. In your view, does the body achieve its functional unity amid diversity or through diversity?

      • The unity of the body is its singular purpose that Paul keeps referencing. The key word is ONE. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Multi is many. Yes we are many. Every person is diverse. This is a simple reality. Is it "important?" Wrong question. Are differences important? Yes if you have different purposes. A 4wd model Nissan truck is better for mud than 2wd Nissan. There is purpose in diversity. Is there unity in these differences? No. They are both Nissan, both trucks, both have 4 wheels etc., etc., there is unity in the things they share in common, purpose in their differences (diversity), but the unity is not in or through their diversity.
        People in church are all individuals (diverse) but their differences cannot unite them, the things they share in common can. The more we share in common, the more United we are. But you'd think from listening to the multiculturalists that the more diversity we have the stronger we'll be and more United.
        Why do people have so much trouble discerning Satan's attack on the Church through so called "multiculturalism?"
        Culture, according to Noah Webster is:

        1. The act of tilling and preparing the earth for crops; cultivation; the application of labor or other means of improvement.

        "We ought to blame the culture not the soil."

        2. The application of labor or other means to improve good qualities in, or growth; as the culture of the mind; the culture of virtue.

        3. The application of labor or other means in producing; as the culture of corn, or grass.

        4. Any labor or means employed for improvement, correction or growth.

        Please, how do you attach the prefix "multi" to this original meaning for culture?

      • If this helps: unity in diversity means that when the head says "turn left", all the parts go left as one. Not so much because they are diverse, but because they all obey the Head and follow "withersoever He goeth".

        • I only raise this because it is relevant to the point under consideration, but are you sure about "Not so much because they are diverse"?

          If I make the action you describe a little stronger, you might be better able to see. Imagine a body that is running hard and then has to make a sharp left turn. It actually is the diversity of body parts (and diversity of function of those parts) that makes this possible. Without the diversity, the action would not be possible.

          This puts a different take on the relationship between diversity and unity.

          • Of course, but the unity in the "body"(Church) can only exist if each part is following The Head, since we've proven that more than one source of direction can divide us quickly. That was my specific point. Diversity in this world generally results in disunity. So diversity does not typically ensure unity.

            In the analogy of a physical body, diversity is the means of being able to change directions together, but not the cause, if that makes sense. Unless there is only One Head in charge, can you imagine the confusion(think of the church here)? Diversity alone is not the cause/motivation.

          • Thanks for your clarification Robert.

            I agree that diversity does not ensure unity.
            I agree that diversity alone is not the cause/motivation.

            That is why I maintain that the only base within which true core-unity is possible is where every person is anchored in self-renouncing love. And a person can only be anchored in self-renouncing love when they are genuinely anchored in Christ.

            If you and I are each genuinely anchored in Christ and motivated by self-renouncing love, then we can have significant differences of belief about the details of the nature and character of God and of doctrines, yet still be in unity at a core-level such that neither of us wants to harm each other.

            You have people that you are reaching out to for their salvation and so am I. We likely do this in very diverse ways, but we are united in our devotion to God and in being disciples for Christ. Because of our diversity we reach a wider cross-section of people for God than if we were both alike. Hence, while our diversity does not create unity, because of our basis of unity, the impact of unity is enhanced by our diversity.


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