Jeremy Sarber

Should the church be diverse?

If the first and second chapters of Ephesians teach us anything, it’s that the gospel is not what we can do for God. Its essence is not what we can do for ourselves. The gospel is about what God does for us. It’s about his merciful provision through the Savior, Jesus Christ. We are passive, undeserving people whom God has called into a life of faithful obedience and good works.

Paul tells us that this new life requires humility, meekness, patience, love, and a strong desire for unity among God’s people. The family of God is bound together by Christ and his Spirit, so the Bible commands us to live accordingly. The Spirit unites us, so Paul says, Maintain the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3). To quote another passage out of context, What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mk 10:9).

The thrust of Paul’s message in his letter to the Ephesians is that all believers are made equal. We are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Eph 3:6).

Your past is no longer relevant. Your cultural background doesn’t matter. Were you a Jew? Not anymore. Were you a Gentile? It makes no difference. You are Christ’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10). He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Eph 2:14).

Do you get the impression that our calling into the church strips us of our unique identity? Does it seem as though God molds us into a stereotype where our individuality is lost? Is Christianity a religion where one size fits all? You either fit the mold, or you don’t. If not, some may think, you don’t belong here.

If that were the case, why would a believer need patience when dealing with others in the church? Why would we need to maintain unity if everyone is the same? It would come naturally. If we all think the same, act the same, talk the same, and dress the same, how could there be any division?

The fact is, we are not the same. There is something profound and fundamental that binds us together—namely, Christ—but we are not identical, nor does God expect us to be. We were born with different personalities and lived through different upbringings and experiences. God gives us various gifts. As Paul says elsewhere, There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (1Co 12:4-6).