Thursday, January 11, 2024

Unity, Not Uniformity

It still sounds like heresy to some to say that we can all read the same Bible and walk away with a different understanding and that this is not only okay, but that it's the way it's meant to be. I get that. 

But I also come from an understanding of the faith that emphasizes unity, not uniformity. That is, we are all on the same page, but we're not all exactly on the same line. If that helps you to conceptualize it. 

Think back to the party that we were talking about a few days ago as an example. We said that one person goes home talking about the food, another about what everyone was wearing, someone else is talking about the dog, still someone else is talking about the venue and the decor. But everyone was at the same party. 

And even while we're talking about the things that we connected to most about the experience, we all agree that 1) the party happened 2) we were there 3) who hosted it 4) where it was located 5) what its general purpose was (nobody leaves a baby shower and insists that it was a costume party), etc. etc. That is, we all agree on the overarching details of the event. We all know that we are, in fact, talking about the same event, even if we're not talking about the same thing about it. 

Now, apply this to what we're talking about when it comes to the Bible. We all read the Bible and have a different understanding, a different emphasis in what strikes us about it. But we all agree that we're talking about the same Bible/the same God. 

We all agree on the big details of the story, the actual things that happened in the section that we're reading. We all agree that we're talking about the same pages. We all agree that God is the central character, and we all agree on the character and heart of God as the central character. We all agree what the locus of the story is, and we all agree on its general purpose. 

I would go so far as to say that if we do not agree on these general things, then something is wrong and someone is in error and we need to take some time to figure out what's going on. 

But in general, we all agree on these things. Read the faith statement of any church, and they largely agree on these things - we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God; we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; we believe that Jesus lived and died and rose again for our salvation/restoration/eternity; and on and on and on we go in professions of the faith, and largely, we all believe these things. We believe them in our churches, and we believe them in our homes. And we continue to believe them when we come to our Bible to read it. 

So to insist that someone is way off the mark because their heart connects to God through, say, the decor of His party when our heart is more drawn to the food and someone else spends their night hanging out in the corner is ludicrous. We're all at the same party, and we agree on that. 

Unity, not uniformity. That's the heart of the Christian movement. 

I hope you're starting to see that it's not really heresy. It really isn't. It's okay if you read the Bible and have a different understanding than some self-proclaimed "expert" thinks you're supposed to have. Actually, it may turn out that you are a blessing to that expert because you understand something that is apparently in his blind spot. 

Read your Bible. Engage it with the fullness of your being. Come to the fullness of God. Love your Bible. Love God. Agree on the big stuff, on the heart of the matter. And don't apologize for the personality and experiences God has given you that let you see something different than someone else. 

If it draws you into the heart of God and fills you both with love and with belovedness, that's what it's supposed to do. Nothing more and nothing less. 

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