God at Work: Thoughtful Diversity of Thought in the Church
By Kim Arthur
Is it possible to have a community be filled with people who practically flesh out doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God, differently?
Eleven years. That’s how long Andrew and I have been married. We’ve had that many years to test and affirm that we are, indeed, two very different people. We agree on the thing we hold most dear–the gospel. But to my once-newlywed surprise, disagreement can even arise in how we assume the gospel affects different decisions or practical application in life. As you may know, diversity in opinions, personalities, preferences and perspectives can seem quite lovely in theory but in practicality, it’s hard.
I can speak for myself and say that my mind is often running in a hundred different directions. Playing Settlers of Catan with me can be tiresome (so I’ve heard) because my turns often take a little longer. I’m not distracted; I just like to consider every possible scenario on every single turn. See, I was raised by a father that loved sitting with me at the dinner table talking about politics, economics, religion, television, anything for hours. Even as a middle school student, I often listened to talk radio with my dad and then would be expected to formulate arguments for why I did or did not agree with the host or the callers.
Needless to say, I was raised to be thoughtFULL. That’s not a misspelling. I was seriously raised to have lots of thoughts—to actively engage in forming opinions about everything and anything. Then because my grades, class ranking, and job performance reviews often seemed to affirm that my thoughts were “good,” “right,” or “successful,” I became an adult who subconsciously assumed that my way was the right way, my conclusion was the only conclusion, my means was the best means.
You can imagine that this was pleasant for my husband—having a spouse who demanded to be heard and affirmed with agreement about most matters big and small. Of course, this was not realistic so I often felt utterly bemused, if not personally offended, when he wanted to do something differently than me.
If he wanted to spend the night in instead of out, I assumed he was antisocial rather than recognizing that it could be wise to recharge at home by ourselves. If he wanted to take a different route to our destination, he was clearly crazy because everyone knew I’m the directions person in our marriage. On a more serious note, there certainly have been times where we have initially differed on theological, political and/or cultural issues. I faced the same temptation (even more intensely at times) to be immediately bemused, offended or dismissive when the perspective or approach offered differed from my own God-loving, prayerful (sometimes), and seemingly logical thoughts.
Bottom line was that it was difficult to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger with the person I put my guard down with the most (James 1:19). It was hard to daily embrace the reality that two thoughtful people with the same core values could actually find valid alternative approaches to an issue or decision.
Thoughtfull or Thoughtful
Obviously, I was not fostering unity in our marriage. Because I had found so much pride in being full of good thoughts, I often neglected the gospel’s call to simply be thoughtful—to approach my relationship with humility counting the other more significant than myself. I had missed the fact that it was possible —no, certain— that God would call people into community with others who have differing thoughts, approaches, preferences, and opinions. And while that’s not easy or comfortable, it was by his design for our good and His glory. (And needless to say, I am thankful for God’s grace to help my husband endure such a thoughtFULL wife.)
In this current political season, I think it’s safe to say that most seem to be full of thoughts right now. As a result, it can seem too uncomfortable or maybe even impossible for a community to practically live in unity while actually experiencing the rub of diversity. But I’m convinced, especially in light of our recent election, that now more so than ever our church has the opportunity to be the salt of the earth, to be a light on the hill, to bring glory to God through remaining a unified, diverse people.
But how? Is it okay that some in our church marched on Saturday? Is it okay that some did not? Could two thoughtFULL disciples see evidence of brokenness in our world, be stirred to embody the gospel and yet address it differently? Is it possible to have a community filled with people who practically flesh out doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8)—differently?
Unity through the Gospel
Maybe the same conviction empowered by the same Savior that has enabled Andrew and I—two very different people— to remain united in loving community with one another could provide encouragement for our beautifully diverse church family. May these words from Philippians 2 continue to spur our community into humble, Spirit-empowered conversations and relationships in the days and years to come:
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Kim Arthur is our Hallows Communications Director. Her head is often full of thoughts on reaching, ministering and discipling when she isn’t thinking about how to disciple her and Andrew’s three children to grow to love God and love their neighbors (or to simply clean up after themselves). You can find her on instagram @thelaughterchronicle. If you’d like to join our Communications Serve Team, email Kim to get started!