Unity vs. Uniformity

Two weeks ago, my daughter posed this question:

In light of being frustrated with herself (and likely a squabble with her little brother), she wanted to know why we couldn’t all just be the same, think the same, and make good choices every time. I can’t say I blame her line of thinking. Even as an adult, I have found myself scratching my head wondering why God wouldn’t just make me to do exactly what He wants me to do… or why He gave us all different minds and two people could process the exact same situation wildly different. Ummm… any spouses feeling me on this one?

Paul describes God’s design in 2 Cor 12:12-27.

One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Her 8 year old brain could process that God DID create us differently, and she understands that He gave us all the option to choose Him or turn away from Him. But her question is in the WHY.

Baby girl, there are just some things about God’s ways that are so far above our own ways, we may not understand till we are in heaven.

(I wonder when that line will get old…)

I asked her what she thought and we had a great conversation about robots. God could have created a bunch of people that were all identical, perfect, and He programmed to love Him.  But how much cooler is it that God created each person unique, and with a choice. Wouldn’t you rather create something that can choose to love you, than create something you force to? And wouldn’t you rather make 100 different rainbow loom bracelets, each with their own pattern and colors, rather than have 100 identical pink bracelets?

God is so powerful and so creative that He uniquely designed each one of us. AS HE CHOSE.  Did you catch that in verse 18? King James Version says “As it pleased Him”. So the answer to the “why”… because He wanted to. It made him happy. He chose it.

We can speculate about His creativity and being created in His image, and so many other attributes of God. And verse 24 tells us that He composed the body so that it would be different but unified. He gave us our bodies as an example of how we come together as the church. Even the parts that seem less honorable, He bestowed more honor.

God didn’t create us to be uniform, He created us to be unified.

In His perfect wisdom He designed us uniquely so we could be better together. Learn from one another. Serve one another. God designed us to synergize long before that was a business buzz word. We are greater together than the sum of our individual parts.

We can come up with a list of benefits of His “One Body with Many Members” design – but what would your list look like for the WHY behind it?

Because He Can.

Because it pleased Him.

What else?

A Parable about the Parables

Matthew 13:52 and Psalm 111

And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

As we continue through this series of parables, we come to a moment where Jesus pauses and asks his disciples if they get the parables up to this point (verse 51), to which they reply a simple yes. I try to put myself in their shoes – would I have the faith to say yes? Or would I have had ten follow up questions to better understand? Even though we know that the disciples didn’t FULLY comprehend everything Jesus was telling them, they knew enough and had the faith to answer yes. And then we come to verse 52 where Jesus shares a parable about all of the parables!

In this mini parable break, Jesus is encouraging them to not replace everything they learned before with all of these new teaching and parables. Instead, add these new parables and teaching with the old (law).  Similar to how we have both new things in our home along with family heirlooms. One doesn’t replace the other – it’s all part of the collection.

I will admit that I have tried to line up God in the Old Testament with Jesus in the New Testament. The bright light that we can’t look upon and need to remove our shoes for, with the man that is fishing and eating with the lowest of the low. In my heart I believe and know they are one and completely unified, but sometimes my brain goes into overdrive trying to reconcile the two and figure it all out.

Recently a preacher shared this and it’s SO TRUE! Our human (barfo) nature wants our view of graceful bear hugging Jesus to deal with our own sin…. And we want OT fire + brimstone God to show up and deal with people that sin against us.  OUCH – that was a ZINGER! I can think of a time I had those thoughts.

Truth be told, they are perfectly unified. Balancing OT (law, teachings, etc) with the NT (parables, grace, etc) is similar to understanding the trinity. What a beautiful mystery!

Does anyone else love Paul’s comments to the church in Corinth about “now we see through a glass darkly…” – I can not WAIT for heaven, when it will all be crystal clear. Will we be like the disciples and simply say “yes, we understand”, or will we have a million questions?

As Jesus continues to fulfill the law, with his teachings and ultimately his sacrifice, my prayer is that we can have wisdom in balancing the old and the new. The Psalm that is assigned with today’s reading is Psalm 111. I love when the two readings come together so beautifully. Here are a few lines that really spoke to me in light of the parable about parables.

2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.

4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.

God caused us to remember the law in the Old Testament and Jesus’ parable of parables reinforces this. As we seek wisdom and understanding, knowing who God is and having fear and respect for Him is our first step in understanding.



1 Corinthians Introduction – Nothing New Under The Sun

The city of Corinth is on an isthmus which is a narrow stretch connecting the mainland of Greece to the Peloponnese peninsula halfway between Athens and Sparta. Scientists have found artifacts which they believe date back to 6,500 B.C., but the city was destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C. Under Roman rule, Julius Caesar built the city back up in 44 B.C. It became the capital of the Roman province Achaia. A few weeks back we were visiting family in Auburn which is near Springfield, and we attended West Side Christian church there. Pastor Eddie Lowen gave a great sermon on God’s plan for sex and marriage and the damages of sexual sin with the focus being on 1 Corinthians. He called Corinth “the original anything goes city like Vegas. In fact, it would make Vegas look good.” I have a note written in my Bible which says, “Vegas with the power of D.C.” It was known for its commerce, rampant immorality, and multiple religions.

Paul established the church and lived there for approximately 18 months with Priscilla and Aquila as we learned in Acts 18:1-18. In these verses, Jesus told Paul in a vision to stay there and to speak up because he would protect him.  Despite the immorality there, he also told Paul there were many there who were his people. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the church he established there a few years later while in Ephesus between 53-57 A.D.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul not only addresses sex, marriage, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Resurrection, but also unity in the church. He was concerned with division and wanted the church to have one thought and one purpose which was to glorify God. A few years ago, I came across my Grandfather’s Bible, and I found his many notes written in the margins and a Sunday school lesson he had likely written 40-50 years ago. As a side note, I love the Bible app and the ability to get  into the Word anytime when I don’t have my Bible. However, I want to thank Pete Wiedman who challenged me a few years ago to go back to using a physical Bible and to write my thoughts and notes in it so that my kids and grandkids could read it someday. Not I only have I found it helpful to reference back to past notes myself, but it is one of the main spiritual legacies, outside of words, teaching and actions, I want to leave to my kids and grandkids that can go on and hopefully impact them long after I leave this Earth. As far as we can figure out, my Grandfather was a chain breaker in his family as a believer and the legacy he left by raising my Mom in that way which now (with the help of our Father too) has carried on with my brother and me and down to our kids and I pray for their kids someday is truly awesome. I can’t describe how neat it was to go back and read his notes in his Bible. I would encourage you to give some thought to going back to physical Bible if you don’t use one. Anyway, I digress. My grandfather referenced in his Sunday school teaching notes many of the issues and problems at that time such as absent fathers leaving and creating single parent homes and the damage of some of the same sins Paul references in 1 Corinthians. Doesn’t sound much different than today in 2017 does it? One of my former mentors, John Wright, would often reference Ecclesiastes 1:9 which says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

As we read 1 Corinthians, I would encourage you to look for Paul’s themes mentioned above and how the Gospel is the answer to many questions. Imagine how different the world would be today if we followed the instructions given to us by God through Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth…one unified church, following one source of instruction on how to live which is the Bible, with one common goal of glorifying God in all we do.


How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Unity; noun, plural unities.

          1. the state of being one; oneness.
          2. a whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.
          3. the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole; unification.
          4. absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character.
          5. oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.
          6. (in literature and art) a relation of all the parts or elements of a work constituting a harmonious whole and producing a single general effect.
          7. Mathematics.

a. the number one; a quantity regarded as one
b. identity

I am back writing for Jennifer this week.  She left me with such an easy yet powerful word “Unity”.  Unity is a word understood by most everyone throughout the world.  Unity exists everywhere around us and we may not even recognize it or appreciate it.  We are unified in our Bible Journal network.  We are unified in our church congregations.  You could take each one of these definitions above and write a chapter on it. You can also google unity and find many examples, including the name of a Church, a video game development, symbols and pictures of hands, a name of a college, a health insurance company and the list goes on.

When writing this post, two thoughts popped into my mind immediately:  how we unite every day and then how as a world we unite in response to a crisis or disaster.

Last Sunday, the Pantagraph was filled with photos of sporting events.  My oldest son made the front page in a crowd of NCHS foot supporters, cheering on the team to advance to the next round of playoffs.  There were pictures on the subsequent pages of UHigh winning the soccer state title, and I smiled as we picked out players we knew, all united for one reason: to win the state title as a team.  There were pictures of random people disappointed by the Cubs loss on Saturday and also fans cheering on the Cubs to victory.  Whether it was fans coming together “as of the parts of a whole; unification” to cheer their team to victory of whether it was the actual teammates, working as “the state of being one; oneness” toward victory, people were united.  How fun to rally with others to win, “…constituting a harmonious whole”.  How important to rely on others and unite when you fail or when life doesn’t go your way.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

If you are not an avid sports fan, we can all think about others ways people come together:  Marching Band, Spanish Club, Student Council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, small groups at church, bridge group, Book Club, a cooking club, a French class, Operation Christian Child, Lutheran World Relief, all ways we unite in common bonds.  We find a common purpose that brings us together.

The second thought I had was around crisis and disaster.  Unfortunately, during this Hurricane season, we did see part of the world impacted.  Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the US, and promised to cause significant damage with wind and water.  We saw people on the news working together to prepare.  The state of Florida was on high alert.  South Carolinians were told to evacuate.  The strike wasn’t as bad as expected and loved ones could reunite here in the US.  However, in other parts of the world such as Antilles, Bahamas, St. Lucia and Haiti, significant damage occurred.  People united to rescue others, to help those in despair and to begin the process of rebuilding.

Just in October alone;

                            • An earthquake hit India
                            • A Flash Flood in Indonesia killed one and damaged multiple homes
                            • A Landslide in Columbia killed seven
                            • Torrential Rain killed eleven in Egypt.

These nations and people throughout the world were struck with fear, with panic and ultimately with disaster.  Yet, these moments of crisis bring people together as a nation: “oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.”

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

As the election approaches, we need unity within our country.  Whether you follow politics or not, there is no dodging the division of the nation over the Presidential candidates.  Whatever the outcome, our new President will have the difficult task of finding a platform on which to unite our divided country.

As we move about our daily lives on Wednesday, let us remember the need for unity.   We can be unified in God’s word.  We can be stewards of God’s word in our thoughts and in our deeds.  Let us unite and come together as one nation.

2 Kings 18; Philemon 1; Hosea 11; Psalms 132–134