The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

We Must Honor Our Natural Differences

Posted on: June 28, 2016

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We live in a universe of stupefying diversity. And for clarification, I am going to be discussing that word, “diversity”, from it’s historical definition, not it’s new “politically nuanced” meaning.

The heavens contain planets, stars, solar systems, quasars, pulsars, asteroids, comets, hydrogen clouds, nebulae, and black holes.

And then within the universe, take just our planet… we have spectacular diversity in plants, animals, minerals, humanity and ethnicities.

And then take just one person on the planet… in the human body, there are organs, a nervous system, circulatory system, digestive system, respiratory system, muscles, bones, and a brain so complex we haven’t even begun to deeply understand it.

Yet, within this diversity, there is unity. Everything makes up a whole, and each part is valuable to the whole.

Years ago, farmers attempted to eradicate the prairie dog from the vast grasslands in the Dakotas. They seemed to be worthless nuisances and even dangerous, spreading fleas, digging dangerous holes, and carrying occasional disease.

The farmers nearly succeeded. And as they progressed, the prairies began to die. The grass withered, other animals disappeared, the prairies began to degenerate into a dying wasteland. But before the worst happened, the farmers withdrew their extermination plan, and the prairie dogs began to come back. As they did, the grass began to restore itself. It seems that by digging holes, the prairie dogs aerated the soil, giving it oxygen and water. By eating the grass, they caused regeneration and proliferation. Black ferrets, whose diet is almost exclusively prairie dogs, almost went extinct. They came back. As did the coyotes and burrowing owls, which nest in abandoned prairie dog holes.

Everything on the prairie is interdependent, and when one major element of the equation was removed, the entire system began to fail.

That is God’s way: unity and interdependence amidst diversity. We cannot foul or mistreat the parts without endangering the whole.

This has powerful implications, on a personal level, for how we treat one another.

On the human level, of course, it means that all races are equal in God’s eyes, both genders are equal in God’s eyes, all ages are equal, all abilities are equal, and so on. Every individual is of inherent and infinite value, but no individual is of any more value than any other. This truth exalts us without inflating us, and humbles us without debasing us.

Within the body of Christ there is great diversity. In 1 Corinthians 12 :14-18, we read:

14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

So… we are all different, but all are important… all play a valuable part.   God wants to use our differences to make up a complete “whole.”

Another area of diversity is our inherited temperaments and personality traits. Some people are introverts while others are extroverts. Some are detail-oriented while others are generalists.   Some like to take charge while others are laid back.

One of the great challenges of diversity is that we often fail to value others who are different from us. Yet, as in the ecosystem in the Dakota prairie, God has a role for each of us. He values each of us, and intends to use each of us. So, our responsibility as Christians is to value others, and to demonstrate that value by treating others with dignity and respect.

That doesn’t mean that we must always agree or go along with everyone else. That encourages chaos. There must be principled order. But within the God-ordained order of things, we are to value and respect others… our spouses and family members, our bosses and co-workers, our neighbors and acquaintances. Even when we must disagree, we must do so with appropriate respect.

This has three benefits.

  1. It honors the Lord whom we serve.
  2. It encourages harmony and social order.
  3. It forces us to grow up.

Often, our dissonance with others is rooted in our own immaturities, our own prejudices, our own insecurities, our own inability to love others when they are unlovable. But God will turbocharge our spiritual growth as we take seriously our responsibility to love others as ourselves, even when they are different from us.

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