Do Differences Divide?
Do differences divide?  If everyone was exactly the same would we all get along?  It’s easy to imagine that if all differences were eliminated all division would be eliminated too, but that is the opposite of God’s declaration in 1 Corinthians 12:24b-25.  There He speaks of the differences He has ordained in the church: “God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”  Several differences within the body of Christ are highlighted throughout the wider chapter – differences in spiritual gifts (vv 4, 8-10), differences in forms of service and ministry (v 5), differences in the effects of those ministries (v 6), and even differences in ethnic background (v 13 – “Jews or Greeks”) and social status (v 13 – “slaves or free”).  And those differences, we are told, are not merely the product of chance or of human ingenuity and effort.  Rather, “to each is given [by God] the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” and regardless of the particular form of that manifestation (so far as it really is a manifestation of God’s Spirit; vv 8-10), “all … are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.”  The differences are ordained by God.  Not only that, they are actually ordained by God to eliminate division and cause growth unto the glory of God.  That is why He says in verses 24 and 25, “God has so composed the body … that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” 

In God’s economy, differences do not equal division and unity isn't stunted through diversity.  In God's economy, unity is accomplished through diversity.  Now, of course, not all differences are good or unifying.  Straying from God’s standard of truth and holiness will destroy the unity and witness of the church, which is why Paul strongly exhorts the same congregation to, “purge the evil person from among you,” (1 Corinthians 5:13) and elsewhere encourages God’s people to be of the same mind and purpose in Christ (Philippians 1:27-2:4).  But, within the context of Spirit-led obedience to Christ, differences are good, healthy, and helpful.  The fact that our unity is furthered through our God-ordained differences shows that the power is of God and not us; that Jesus ransomed people from every tribe, tongue, and nation; and that His lordship supersedes all earthly differences.

So then, let us embrace the secondary differences God has allotted to us – gifts, ethnicities, social standing, etc. – and seek to utilize them for the health of the whole body of Christ.  Let us cast away any notion that we or another is a second-class citizen in the kingdom of God because of the differences that mark us.  What we who are children of God have in common in Christ is far greater than all our differences.  And, all of our differences, working together in love (1 Corinthians 13) show the superior greatness of our Redeemer, King, and Head of the body.

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