Demonstrating unity in diversity

March 18th, 2016

The people of God’s kingdom are meant to be the visible demonstration of heaven’s redemptive purpose on earth. Through this community of faith, God is creating a Kingdom culture that is markedly different from the political alliances of earthly kingdoms.

Jesus’ selection of the original 12 apostles would have appeared to be an unlikely group for the cohesive start of a Kingdom movement. How many pastors have bemoaned a church administrative council with a similar makeup of volatile and unreliable people? It was truly a unifying work of the Holy Spirit that brought to fruition the missional work of unity in the midst of such diverse political persuasions.

  • Matthew was a tax collector in the employment of the oppressive Roman political system when Jesus called him to follow. Tax collectors were very much in league with Rome.
  • Simon the Zealot represented the opposite extreme of the political spectrum. The Zealots saw the Romans as pagans who occupied the Promised Land. They brought with them false gods and unacceptable ways of thinking and living. The Zealots favored armed rebellion against Rome and were not hesitant to resort to terrorist tactics when deemed necessary. It seems strange that Jesus would choose Simon, considering the fact that Jesus taught nonviolence. There were probably no two groups of Jews in Palestine that hated each other more than the tax collectors and the Zealots.
  • Peter, also named Simon, was one of the most impulsive in the group and subject to fits of rage. Let’s just say he wasn’t reluctant to swing a sword on occasion (Luke 22:49-50).
  • Judas the betrayer. Why did he do it? When we try to guess someone’s motive, we are on shaky ground. But I would dare to go out on a limb and say it wasn’t about the blood money that he received for his act of treachery. Many people were looking for a political messiah that would overthrow the controlling Roman administration and usher in a new political order of Israelite prosperity (restoration of the Davidic Kingdom). Judas couldn’t accept what appeared to be Jesus’ subservience and apparent defeat at the hands of oppressive Roman dominance. Judas made the same mistake that many in the church do today. Judas allowed his political ideology to become the determiner of his biblical theology.

The kingdom of Jesus is neither red nor blue, left nor right, tea nor coffee. As followers of Jesus, we represent an alternative party, the party of the kingdom of God. As Jesus’ disciples we must be moving forward in the Spirit of Pentecost, tearing down the demeaning barriers that divide and destroy. How can we find our way forward in demonstrating unity without the expectation of uniformity?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on all that God has created! I want to join all of my politically, socioeconomically and ethnically diverse neighbors at the Kingdom’s open table.

Mike Slaughter is the almost four-decade chief dreamer and lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. Mike’s call to "afflict the comfortable" challenges Christians to wrestle with God and their God-destinies. His newest book is The Christian Wallet: Spending, Giving, and Living with a Conscience. For more on this blog's topic, see Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide.

You are invited to join Mike, Shane Claiborne, Jorge Acevedo and Dr. J. Kabamba Kiboko at the CHANGE the WORLD missional church conference on April 21/22.

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