As far as our worldly involvements are concerned, we can usually find people who share our interests, people with whom we can easily have good conversation, and people who are supportive of our political and social views. We all have people we can point at and say, “Now, that’s my kind of guy” or, “ She’s the kind of person I could really get along with.” This is certainly a good thing, and to have someone to whom you can genuinely relate and with whom you can really get along is a wonderful blessing.
But would you want to live in a world where everyone thought, spoke, and acted just like you? What would the world be like if everyone were exactly the same? What would the church look like and how
much would the church get accomplished in the world if everyone had the same talents, abilities, and approaches to teaching? Would you want to be a member of a congregation where everyone had YOUR personality, where everyone spoke the same as you, where everyone had the same attitudes toward teaching and working as you?
When we talk about the church and encouraging lost souls to learn about the church, we are talking about PEOPLE. It is people, the souls of men and women, who make up the church and it is people who we labor to teach and convert. People are different. Wherever you go in the world, you will find people who think differently, perceive the world differently, have different cultures and personalities, and people who will react differently to new ideas. Even in the smallest of communities, one will find that there is a diversity of personalities, talents, and perspectives. One effective method of teaching or attitude for one group of people may be completely ineffective and even discouraging to another group of people. People are as diverse as we can imagine, and so it is a wonderful blessing for a congregation to enjoy the benefits of having a diverse array of personalities, talents, and perspectives (Rom. 12:4,5).
Just look at the diversity in some of the apostles and disciples of Christ we read about in the New Testament. Do we have “Peters” among us? Perhaps at Grissom Road we have some members who, if the building were under a terrorist attack, would whip out their concealed weapons in an instant to protect the congregation. We certainly have some who we might liken to Apollos, men and women who are “mighty in scriptures” and eloquent in their speech; but just because an individual can’t remember verses well off the top of their head or just because one can’t put an idea into words like a fresh bouquet of flowers doesn’t make that person any less in the kingdom of God. In Acts chapter 15, Paul and Barnabas certainly had different viewpoints on an issue, resulting in such a “sharp contention” (v.39) that they ended up parting ways, but their disagreement did not hinder the work of the church.
In Philippians 2 and verse 2, where we are encouraged to be “like-minded”, are we being instructed to think the same way and, by extension, act the same? When it talks about like-mindedness, whose mind sets the standard? A closer look at the setting of this passage clarifies the thought. Just a few verses prior, in verse 27 of chapter 1, the standard of “mind”, that to which we all should aspire and in which we all should be united, is clearly shown as that of Christ. This shared mind, this kinship of spirit, this communion in divine love, is addressed several times throughout the book (2:5, 3:16, 4:2) and in many other New Testament passages (Rom. 8:9, Gal. 6:18, I Pet. 1:15,16): our commonality is in the spirit, love, and doctrine of Christ, not in our personalities, methods of teaching, perspectives, or worldly interests.
We certainly don’t want to be convicted by the Word God of not living the life of a Christian, and if a brother or sister in Christ approaches another and says, “what you are doing (or not doing) displeases the Lord, as it is written…” reflection should occur and changes ought to be made. But let us not accuse our brothers and sisters of not doing the work of the Lord simply because they are not doing it in the style or attitude we’d like. Let us guard our hearts against using the Word of God as a front for making accusations against the personal diversities and idiosyncrasies of those who, at heart, share our desire to love, obey, and serve Christ. Your kind of Christian may not be my kind of Christian, but we all better be sure we’re the Lord’s kind of Christian!