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Biblical Basis for Unity in Diversity

In essentials unity, in non- essentials liberty, in all things charity – G K Chesterton.

Unity in diversity is a concept that celebrates the differences and similarities among people, cultures, religions, languages and regions. The Bible reveals that God is a Triune God Who exists in perfect unity and diversity as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:16-17). God created human beings in His image, with the capacity to reflect His unity and diversity in their relationships (Gen 1:26-27). However, human rebellion disrupted the harmony and fellowship that God intended for His creation, and resulted in division, hostility, and confusion among people (Gen 11:1-9). God unites people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, languages and races through their faith in Jesus Christ and their membership in His body, the Church.

I. Biblical basis for Unity:

God’s unity shows us that He is the one and only God. But it also teaches us that the three persons in God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) are one in God. God is three-in-one. God cannot be divided or separated. Our triune God is the supreme example of unity. God, Who is love (1 Jn 4:8), has forever existed in perfect unity as Father, Son, and Spirit (Deut 6:4, Matt 28:19). Further, biblical unity is not uniformity. The family of God has a diversity of people, gifted to serve each other for the sake of unified maturity in the faith (Eph 4:11–13). Though we are one in Christ, God doesn’t erase our unique gifts, abilities, personal preferences or other distinctions like gender or age. He also doesn’t erase our ethnic and cultural heritages (Rev 7:9).

1. Unity leads to blessing (Ps 133)

When God’s people dwell in unity, God’s blessing will dwell among them. Love your neighbor as yourself is an old command but Christ gave a new command to love one another just as Christ loved us so people will know we are His disciples (Jn 13:35).

2. Unity among God’s children should resemble the triune God’s unity

Jesus prayed for Christians to be united as the triune God is united from eternity to eternity. Unity among Christians will glorify God (Jn 17: 20-26).

3. The Holy Spirit initiates and God’s children keep the unity
Among all the ministries of the Holy Spirit, unity is the first and foremost and we have to keep that unity with all humility and gentleness with patience and forbearance.

II. Biblical basis for Diversity
Diversity, in and of itself, is a God-created good that reflects the unity (oneness) and diversity (three-ness) of the Triune God. Christian theologians have argued that the doctrine of the Trinity—God as one in being and three in person—can serve as a model for human society and community. God‘s oneness calls us to unity while His three-ness affirms our diversity and uniqueness. God‘s handiwork, His creation, also reflects this unity in diversity. The incredibly rich diversity of uniquely individual creatures—of plants, animals, rocks and trees—are all created, united, and held together in Christ (Col 1:15–17). Even humanity was created with the diversity of male and female. It must be stressed, then, that creational diversity is never a diversity of division. It is not differences that divide; it is a diversity of unity— differences that are united in relationship to each other in love and obedience to God the creator. Thus, difference and diversity, in and of itself, is a created gift from God that reflects part of God‘s own nature. And the unity that Christ brings through His redemptive work is not a new unity; it is a restoring and renewing unity that was already there at the beginning of creation, a unity that was disrupted by sin.

1. Diversity in human nature
Gen 1 & 2: God created man and woman with diversity of nature but they are united in reaching their destination. It is not only their compatibility but also their complementarity that brings completeness. Diversity in nature makes us depend on one another.

2. Diversity in gifts and ministries
Fruit of the Spirit is common for all but gifts and ministries are different for different people (1 Cor 12: 4-11, 27-30). Gifts are not to substitute one another but to support and to depend on one another to bring maturity in the fellowship.

3. Diversity in society
We are different in geographical, ethnic and lingual terms (Acts 17:26). Our birth and upbringing are affected by all these societal factors. Biblical diversity will always bring glory to God but unbiblical diversity or divisions will never bring glory to God (Js 2:1-7).

III. Biblical basis for Unity in Diversity
The Church, or the Christian community, is God’s strategic vehicle for embodying, proclaiming, and promoting God’s reconciliation of all things, including racial reconciliation. Being united in Christ through faith does not mean that ethnic and cultural differences will be erased. Rather, ethnic and other categories (economic, gender, and so forth) are no longer definitive of our identities. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus – is not a call to erase ethnic, class, and gender diversity in an ontological or absolute sense (Gal 3:28).

Diversity is part of being human. God delights in the plethora of differences His human creatures possess. The book of Revelation describes the final gathering of God’s people from “every nation, tribe, and tongue” (Rev 7:9). The angels and elders around God’s throne adore Jesus with the words “with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,” (Rev 5:9).

1. Unity in beliefs
Five solas of Protestant Reformation

  • Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone” (Rom 3:10-12)
  • Sola fide: “Faith alone” (Rom 4:4-5)
  • Sola gratia: “Grace alone” (Jn 14:6)
  • Solo Christo: “Christ alone” (2 Pet 1:21)
  • Soli Deo gloria: “To the glory of God alone” (Rom 11:36)

We have five Solas of faith which are essentials and there can be few more beliefs for each fellowship. If you don’t maintain unity of belief in these 5 it is wrong and not to be united with those who believe these is also wrong (2 Cor 11:1-4).

2. Unity in fellowship

  • Don’t judge the weak – Rom 14: 1-3, 10, 15, 18, 20, 22
  • Bearing with the weak – Rom 15: 1-4
  • Unity that brings glory to God – Rom 15: 5-7
  • Unity by being filled with the Holy Spirit – Rom 15:8-13
  •  Unity in mission – Rom 15:14-21

3. Unity in gifts and ministries

Fruit of the Spirit brings unity among the diversities of gifts and ministries.

  • No single organization can bring completeness in the body of Christ. Each one doing the task given by God in unity with others will bring glory to God.
  • Though the gifts are different we must be united as one body with many members having different purposes.
  • No part of the body is great or negligible. Every part has its role to play. We all succeed together or suffer together and support together (1 Cor 12:12-26).
  • Fruit of the Spirit qualifies, gift of the Spirit empowers and the ministry of the Spirit implements.
  • Gifts are mapped with ministries (2 Cor 12: 27-31).

Christ talks about the Universal Church (Mt 16:18-19) and practical issues of disunity in the local fellowship (Mt 18). The principle and practice of unity in diversity can be achieved through childlike humility (Mt 18:1-6), purity (Mt 18:7-14), unity (Mt 18:15-20) and the process of getting unity (Mt 18:21-35).

The reasons for increasing disunity is that we are not able to resolve the issues as per the process suggested by Christ: talking to the person directly, talking to the person in the presence of two or three and finally in the presence of the higher body (Mt 18:15-17). Only those who are committed to maintaining unity are given authority to bind and authority to release. The Lord’s presence is assured only where there is unity in spite of diversity (Mt 18:20). If there are still some itches of diversity unity can be brought about by the process of forgiveness. Forgiveness can become habitual by exercising it as many times as 7 times 70 per person (Mt 18:21-35).

Moreover, Christ taught His disciples that they must learn to rebuke with forgiveness and to have faith with faithfulness. Paul practiced it and taught the same to the leaders in the Corinthian Church to bring unity there (Lk 17: 1-4, 2 Cor 2:5-11).

In conclusion, God’s plan of redemption is to restore the unity and diversity that He originally designed for humanity. Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God reconciles people to Himself and to one another, breaking down the barriers of sin and death that separated them (Eph 2:14-18). The Holy Spirit empowers and equips God’s people to live in unity and diversity as they exercise their spiritual gifts and serve one another in love (1 Cor 12:4-31). The Church is called to be a witness and a foretaste of the unity and diversity that God will fully establish in the new heaven and the new earth, where people from every nation, tribe, people and language will worship God together in harmony and joy (Rev 7:9-10).

Dr. John Paul Pulipati, B.E, M.E, Ph.D. Principal at Ellenki College of Engineering & Technology, Hyderabad, TS, an author of several textbooks on ECE widely used in colleges across India and abroad. He was a Bapatla EU student (1981-86). He is married to Dr Kezia, who is also an associate professor. They are active EGF members at Hyderabad. They are blessed with son Dr. Daniel Paul and daughter Christiana Shiny who are working in USA. You can reach him at jppulipati@gmail.com

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