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Celebrating the Differences

Celebrating the Differences

Have you ever noticed how hard all of the automobile manufacturers struggle to convince you that their cars are at the same time very much like other cars, yet different from all other cars? Each year they come out with different models, but only rarely does a truly different car appear. If that new style becomes popular, many others will soon come off the assembly lines with strikingly similar lines and features. When you begin to look closely at the different models, you discover that major components of the cars, like the engines, may even be shared by several different cars. Advertisements often resort to slogans which amount to little more than "My car's better than your car--nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!"
The conflict between conformity and individualism is not isolated to the manufacturing business. It is a human paradox. Our lives are lived in the tension of being like everyone else, yet different. We are constantly in the midst of a struggle to think for ourselves and act independently, on the one hand, and conform our thinking to the group and let the group do our thinking for us. Nowhere is this more true than in the church setting. There are even Biblical texts that suggest we should all be of "the same mind," namely, the mind of Christ.
At the same time, Scripture makes clear that the church is composed of people who have been given different measures of the Spirit, and that, much like the human body, we are all different members contributing different functions in the overall life of the church (I Cor. 12, Rom. 12). One of the greatest tyrannies the church faces is that of forcing all the membership into a particular mold, cloning Christians not so much to the mind of Christ but to someone's--or some group's--opinion regarding the mind of Christ. Of equal danger to the growth and vitality of God's people is the apathetic spirit which simply allows conformity to the loudest opinion voiced. No, we are all different parts of the body, yet all responsible to the body to function according to our individual callings and our individual understanding of Scripture. That last part is vital--our understanding of Scripture, not opinions and traditions which, like car body styles, come and go with the winds of conformity and change. Let us celebrate our differences in Christ's body and properly use our individualism for the purpose of enhancing our ultimate goal of conformity--not to my mind or yours, but to Christ's!
John O. York

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