Since Easter Sunday, I’ve been reading through the book of Acts. I guess I like to see how the disciples lived in the light of the risen Lamb, and consider how I might do the same. This time through, I got stuck in Acts 15. A council is held in Jerusalem because Gentiles are receiving the Holy Spirit and becoming part of the Church. Some Christians, particularly former Pharisees, want the new Gentile converts to follow the law of Moses, including circumcision. Others don’t want to burden the Gentile Christians with a law that has already been fulfilled by Christ. In the end, they decide to encourage Gentile Christians to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, sexual immorality, blood, and meat from strangled animals.
What I take from this passage is the beautiful tension between unity and diversity. Both are necessary for the Church to grow.
You don’t have to look far to see the importance of unity to the young Church. Passages like Philippians 2:1-13 and Ephesians 4:1-16 are two of many that talk about unity. In both, Christ is our example of serving one another, and the Triune God is our example of unity. When we serve each other, when we share the same bread and cup of communion, when we sing or say “Amen” together, we are demonstrating Jesus’ prayer in John 16. We are one with Christ and so we are one with each other.
And yet, diversity holds great importance, as well. When we look at Acts 15, we see polar opposites: Christians coming from a zealous legalism clashing with Christians who have no prior belief in the God of Israel. This diversity leads to greater understanding, greater accommodation for one another and for the world around them.
Church isn’t a country club where we are surrounded by our social peers. Church isn’t a local political party chapter where everyone shares the same ideals on government. Church is a messy, diverse, motley group, where faith is stretched, and one must delve deep to find unity. And the unity we find is Jesus.
He’s enough to hold us all together.