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Robert Ricciardelli: "UNITY IS NOT UNIFORMITY--EMBRACING OUR DIVERSITY IS TRUE UNITY"

Visionary Advancement Strategies
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"As the Lord has accepted each one of us, so must we accept others in the household of faith to perfect His glory through our life."

Unity Must Be a Reality

We continue to hear the word unity quite often these days in the body of Christ. We have many leaders of the church who have it as a goal in their life and preach it as a goal of their church. I do not want to keep seeing unity as a goal, or something that I preach--I want to see unity as a reality.

Jesus prayed for unity, and it is the heart of God for His people to live it and not just preach it. Let's reflect on the Lord's Prayer for all of us in John 17:20-23:

"I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are One--as You are in Me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe you sent Me.

I have given them the glory you gave Me, so they may be one as we are One. I am in them and You are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as you love Me."


Let's build from this foundation. Jesus desired that believers from every generation would be one just as He and the Father are One. This is a powerful statement, and it is also a prayer that has yet to be fully realized in the Body of Christ. He has given us new life, He has given us the Holy Spirit, He has passed His glory on to us, and yet we have moved slowly into this powerful reality. The opposition of unity is fierce because the fruits of unity will overwhelm nations for Christ and His Kingdom.

Jesus said that in perfect unity, the world will see that He was sent from the Father, and that the world will see that the Father loves each of us as much as He loves Jesus. We should all pursue this type of unity, because our lives should be about obediently impacting others to bring glory and much joy to our Heavenly Father.

For those who may need more motivation than a prayer from Jesus, how about a commandment for unity as well as in Romans 15:5-7:

"May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory."

As the Lord has accepted each one of us, so must we accept others in the household of faith to perfect His glory through our life.

Uniformity Has Little to Do With Unity

What is uniformity? Let's see what Webster says about it:

1. Always the same, as in character or degree; unvarying.

2. Conforming to one principle, standard, or rule; consistent.

3. Being the same as or consonant with another or others.

4. Unvaried in texture, color or design, or personality.

Number two is true, as we are all called to conform to One King, and His Kingdom, as well as one constitution, (Word of God). But even in the definition of number two above, we have to realize that the Lord asks different things from each of us. Some have been called to not touch wine, others have freedom. Some eat pork and for some, the Lord may have them choose an alternative meat, or no meat at all. Some dance, some shout, some are silent, some are vertical, some are prostate, some weep, some rejoice, some ?? --One Spirit and many expressions of One faith.

Romans 14:1-8:

"Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.

Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord."

So it is very clear from the passage above, that uniformity is not what the Lord has asked of us. We are asked to prefer one another, to not cause a brother to stumble. We are asked to not judge one another as we answer to the Lord as servants to one Master and Lord. It goes on in Romans 14:10-19:

"So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bend to Me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.'

Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let's stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don't let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good.

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up."

Accepting of His Workings in Others Lives

"Embracing diversity within the will of God is the only true unity."

From what I see in the Scriptures, God has never commanded uniformity for His church. Unity, yes; uniformity, no. The New Testament presupposes the existence of diversity and declares liberty in regard to the disputable matters which occur in each of us as we express as best we can, what the Lord has revealed to us. And we who follow Christ, though incredibly diverse, are called to accept one another and remain united despite the various ways in which we are not uniform.

As long as Christians extend fellowship to each other based on the condition that they must all agree with a manufactured system of religious ideas, they will only produce, build, and protect their own system of uniformity. This can be a form of spiritual bondage for those who conform, while excluding all who differ.

This uniformity is defined by a narrow set of temperamental preferences, philosophical opinions, inductive conclusions, and institutionalized traditions of human origin, not Divine authority. This type of uniformity is a far cry from the nonjudgmental and non-contemptuous acceptance that is necessary for true unity to thrive.

The Kingdom of God is inclusive of all systems of human religious thoughts and orders. We even come up with new systems that we feel are the way, and then view others outside our system or paradigms as wrong or misinformed. The fact is that while we are judging others outside of our own system, we are already proving that our system does not line up with the Kingdom of God, which embraces all who are in Jesus.

God's people must fellowship with each other with the understanding that we are all part of His revealed Kingdom and His will upon the earth, despite the obvious personal differences. We can begin to see freedom and the bond of peace expressed in power through Divine authority rather than ideologies of human origin.

Embracing diversity within the will of God is the only true unity. God calls us to harmony, and not man made religious cloning. God calls us to preserve the unity He has provided for us through the cross of Christ, not to produce loyalty to our own brand of uniformity.

Unity in Diversity

"If we can begin to embrace the conflict that comes from our differences we will gravitate towards unity."

I love diversity; I love those that think differently then I do. I learn from them often and they learn from me as well sometimes (smile). When we can walk as family and under one King and one Kingdom, the differences most times are a very positive thing. Through our lives, we have formed impressions, some good, some God, some not so good. Even the good Godly paradigms are limited because we can only know and see in part.

We learn so much from one another. We even see the Lord more completely through one another. If we can begin to embrace the conflict that comes from our differences, we will gravitate towards unity. We need conflict so that we may continue to evolve and extinguish self, humanistic ideology, and the most dangerous--thinking we have arrived at all the answers. We can all find Scriptures to prove we have it right. None of us have it all together and need to continually renew our minds and rid ourselves of religious tendencies.

Relationships aren't destroyed by differences. They are destroyed by the immature, irresponsible, and unhealthy ways in which we view those differences and our unwillingness or inability to take them to God and allow Him to use them for His glory.

The real problem is not that we are different, nor that we disagree and have conflict. It's that most of us automatically view conflict as something negative rather than as a tool God can use to help us better understand ourselves and one another.

When you experience conflict, it means that someone has a different value or opinion than you do. Most of us assume that our position is the correct one, and we try hard to help the other person see things as clearly as we do. Of course the other person feels exactly the same way. They invest an equal amount of energy trying to help us see things as clearly as they do.

Rather than working at listening and understanding, most of us attempt to change the other person. I've worked with many conflicting couples who weren't too sure what the real issue was. But they were sure that whatever the issue, their position was the correct one. To add more muscle to their argument, they would say that their view was the most Biblical one. Who would dare argue with that? So we all can quote Scripture to cover a wrongful heart issue.

Diversity Should Not Cause Division in God's People

"Unity without diversity leads to uniformity."

I've known some Evangelicals who believe that Christians who are mature will agree almost all of the time. Every decision made must reflect the unanimity of those involved. Conflict is viewed as a sign of immaturity and carnality. But in many ways, just the opposite is true.

Those who believe that diversity always leads to division feel threatened by differences. They tend to discourage individual uniqueness and creativity. Individuals are pressured not to disagree. Spirituality and maturity are in part determined by the degree to which everyone thinks alike.

Yet someone once said that when everyone always agrees and thinks alike, no one thinks very much at all. I have heard it said that, "Unity without diversity leads to uniformity." Christ died to take away our sins, not our minds. In fact, in Romans 12:1-2, Paul tells us that as part of the process of sanctification, God wants to renew our minds, and change our presuppositions.

Romans 12:1-2:

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

Can We Set Aside Our Status, Our Rights, and Our Ways, to Prefer One Another?

In Philippians 2:5, we are encouraged to have the mind of Jesus. Below is the message version of Philippians 2:5-8:

"Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all.

When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death--and the worst kind of death at that--a crucifixion."

Diversity can lead to division, but it does not have to in God's people. Diversity is also essential for unity and harmony. Think of God's people throughout the world as a symphony for His glory. In the orchestra there are groups of instruments including woodwind, brass, string, and percussion. Within those groups, there are many different instruments with different sounds. All the sounds together resound something so beautiful. Could you imagine a symphony of only trombones?

Brethren, let's begin to express that beautiful sound to the Lord and to the world. May we produce the sound of love and obedience to one true King, and the sound of the King's children in the unity of His Kingdom. Let Him emanate through us the sound of love for one another, the sound of different gifts, designs, and assignments bringing glory to our God.

Expect a harmony to rise up out of the diversity of God's people, which will impact the world in the transformation of people and nations in Jesus name, Amen!

Editors Note: Acceptance of an individual should never be related to an acceptance of behaviors or beliefs which are contrary to the words of God as set down in the Holy Scripture in the Bible.  Never let anyone mislead you, the Bible was not written by the church, it was written by Holy Spirit through man.  The Bible is not a book to be changed and rewritten as the will of man changes.  The Bible is a ancient compiled library.  Yes it is often translated and in some ways mistranslated, but the will of God does not change.  Diversity can never mean accepting what is wrong in His eyes as right.