And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 18-20 (ESV)
I’m not sure if you noticed, but in the verses above I made 2 words bold and capitalized. This is so they would catch your eye. Today I want to talk about Unity in Christ. First, I want you to see how God expects us to look beyond our differences and sees what can or does unite us…Jesus. Second, I want to share a 3 of stories of how graciously, God has blinded some of the people in my family to differences.
A Biblical Example of Unity
I am going to give you a synopsis of Acts 10. Please read it, so you completely understand the story. Even if you’ve read it 100 times, please read it again. I promise you will see it differently this time, with these glasses on. I know I did. So here we go. There was this Centurion in Caesarea. My understanding is he was a powerful man. He was also a God-fearing man. One day he receives a vision of an angel from God. The angel tells him that he needs to send 2 men to Joppa, and have them bring back Peter. The angel also says that Peter is staying with Simon the tanner. So Cornelius does exactly what the angel of God asks. The next day while Cornelius’ men were making their way to Joppa, Peter goes to the roof to pray. While he is up there he becomes very hungry. Well in a vision Peter sees this thing like a big sheet float down. When it comes down where he can see what’s on it, he sees all sorts of animals. Peter hears a voice tell him to Kill them and eat them. But Peter is looking at the types of animals that are there and he says, Lord I can’t eat these they are unclean animals. You see there are only certain animals that God has allowed the Jews to eat, and even those had to be blessed by the Rabbi. Well this happens 3 times, the sheet coming down. If you will notice God only repeats things in the Bible, if he is trying to get someone’s attention or He is showing them the error of their ways. Whichever, repetition always means it is important! Let’s also notice exactly what Peter and God say during this exchange. Peter says, “…I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” God’s response is, “What God has made clean, do not call uncommon.” At this point Peter still doesn’t understand what is going on. In the meantime, the men sent from Cornelius arrive and ask for Peter. They talk and the men explain why they are there. The next day the 4 men travel to Cornelius’ house. When they arrive Cornelius explains his vision to Peter. At that point, I believe Peter got it, he understood the vision God had sent to him. God was telling Peter that ALL men, Jew and Gentile have the opportunity to come to Jesus. There at Cornelius’ house the Gentiles who accepted Jesus were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, just like the disciples were at Pentecost. Now they could spread the good news to Jews and Gentiles alike. Obviously this would continue to be a problem. From this passage it shouldn’t be. Just like diversity in any form should not be an issue today. Not when we are sharing the Good News, not when we are Worshiping and not in our everyday lives. In your heart are you color-blind? Do you view people with prosthetics as your equal? What about the blind or deaf? How about the people down the street whose car is older than yours or they need work on their house because they just can’t afford to get it fixed? Maybe it’s not that, maybe it’s the people with the better house, the fancier car? Satan can cause disunity and keep us from reaching out to those dying without Jesus in all shapes and forms. Let Jesus search your heart and find where you need to be united with Him.
How God Has Taught Me Unity In Diversity
I have so many stories to share, but I promise I will limit it to 3 short ones.
A Kindergartener’s Innocent Heart
When my son Colton was in Kindergarten, he would come home and tell me about his friends, and what they did during recess and center time. Well one day he told me he had made a new friend. I was delighted. You see Colton has always been fairly shy, at least when you first meet him. Then he comes out of his shell and watch out!!! He told me this new friend's was named Cody. He talked about how Cody loved the music center, and how they would both lay on the floor and bang sticks together to the music. He talked about helping Cody and other things. I thought nothing of it. I was just glad he had branched out and had many friends. Well the time for Open House came. Of course Cecil and I visited Colton’s Kindergarten class. We spoke with his teacher and asked about this boy Cody that Colton was constantly talking about. Well it turned out that Cody was in a wheelchair. Cody had Cerebral Palsy, but in Colton’s innocent eyes and heart he was no different than himself. I was so proud of my son. To this day, he looks at people all the same. Thank you Colton for teaching me SO much!
A Teenager’s Love
My daughter Stephanie was in High School when she was offered a part-time, consistent, babysitting job. This was no ordinary babysitting job. She would be taking care of a 7-year-old boy who was almost completely blind, had severe hearing loss, diminished mental capacity, several serious health issues, including heart problems and yet was physically very strong. Before the parents would hire Steph, they wanted to “interview” her, as well as see how their son interacted with her. I do believe it was love at first encounter. One of the hardest things for Steph when she moved to Oklahoma was leaving this precious boy behind. They built such a bond that he would ask for her. Granted, Stephanie understands that he is different from other children, but the point I want to make with this story is that she NEVER shied away from getting to know him and loving him just because he is different. I believe that is another way God calls us to love all people in our diversity.
Did I Not Tell You He’s Black?
Please, Please DO NOT be offended by this title!!! It is not meant to offend. You will find out it was a mistake I made. Please read on. I am not going to give you all of the details to the back-story about how I met Bryan. (If you would like to read it, you can click on the link here. It is my blog titled Do You See What God Provides? Scroll down to the heading The Apple Miracle.) Basically, I was in the Apple Store one day and had an appointment with a Genius. The Genius I dealt with was Bryan. He was amazing! He helped me in ways I never imagined. I believe God was using him to minister to me that day. Bryan and I have continued a friendship ever since. In fact Bryan must have told his mom, who lives in Lubbock, about how he took care of my computer problems. Because she sent me a card. He has been a blessing by helping me with my computer several times, but somehow I believe God used me too. Very cool! Anyway, let me get on with my story. So we were looking for a new computer for Stephanie around HS graduation. So I send Bryan a message and ask if he could help us. So he stays late one night to talk to us about what is going to be the best computer for her. Well we walk in and I spot Bryan immediately. We make eye contact and he lets me know that he’ll be a few minutes. I tell Steph and we just start browsing. If you have ever been in an Apple Store, you know they are READY to help! So we’ve been asked once or twice if we need any help. Well this black guy is starting to approach Steph and before he can say anything, Steph goes, “We are waiting….” Fortunately I saw him and I go, “Bryan” walk over and hug him before Steph can finish. Whew! We dodged that one. So later Steph and I are talking. She tells me, “Mom! You didn’t tell me he was black!” I was like, “Oops” As I talked to her I told her that it didn’t even dawn on me that I needed to tell her that. We have laughed so many times about that just because that is how unimportant race is to us. I pray that God helps me to maintain an attitude that color of skin is unimportant.
Living in Grace,