A Diverse Community

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

Acts 2:42-47 NKJV

One of the chief challenges to community and greatest opportunities for community is diversity. If everyone in a community sees things the same way orhas the same background and values, fostering community is relatively simple. Probably shallower, but certainly easier. However, if people are vastly different, this poses significant challenges and difficulties in building a community.

Take a moment to think about the early church. It was most certainly a diverse community in one church. There could be Jews and Gentiles (who had no respect for each other and very dissimilar values), slaves and free people (who had such differing statuses and experiences in life), men and women (who had distinctive roles in society), all worshipping and sharing and eating together. Get your head around that. It would have been much easier to form separate subcommunities, but Paul would not have been a part of that.

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:12-20 NKJV

Ask yourself a few questions and write down your answers.

  1. What is God saying to me?
  2. Which verse is most significant?
  3. What would I like to discuss or explore further? What do I need to do?
  4. Why would God want us to build community with people who are different from us?

Judging from the letters that make up much of the New Testament, this issue of diversity among Christians was probably the number one challenge for the early church. People who would not normally mix in society did in the church. How did they accomplish this?

First, they recognized that what they had in common was greater than their differences. They were the one body. They were all connected with Christ. They all had God’s Spirit in them. Jews and Gentiles. Slaves and free people. Men and women. There were no second-class citizens in this community. Their culture was contrary to the unity they experienced in the church. But the church listened to God, not culture. We will come across people in our communities who see things very differently. Do not be surprised. That is the church. Keep looking past these differences to know that we have Jesus in common. They are our brothers and sisters. We are one body.

Second, they saw that diversity was a good thing, a God thing. As Paul explains, you do not want your body parts to all look and function the same. That would be most unhelpful. Numerous eyes all over your body might help you see well, but you would have no hearing or smell. Christians with different perspectives and values are not a threat or problem; they are a help. Embrace those who are different from you and listen and learn from them. Maybe you “see” well, but you need some help with “hearing.” As our society splinters over politics, values, and worldviews, the body of Christ displays unity and community.

Reflect

Think of someone quite different from you. Write down one thing that you can learn from this person and thank God for them.

Prayer

Father God, I acknowledge that not everyone sees things my way, which frustrates me at times. I usually prefer to be with people who think and behave like me. I feel safest with that group. I ask you to help push me out of my comfort zone to grow together with others, and my experiences will be richer, deeper, and more spirit-filled in Jesus’ name.

Upcoming Connect 21 Events

  1. Saturday Morning Prayer (Jan 29th @ 9 am at The Way UMC – Latimer Hall) More Details
  2. Sunday Morning Service (Jan 30rd @ 10 am at River Ridge High School)