How then shall we live—unity in diversity
My first experience with math was the practice of learning numbers, then I learned to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. As my schooling continued, in high school I learned algebra and I (barely passed) geometry. However, my experience with math now is on a purely practical level. I’m no whiz at math, but I can use it to accomplish things like managing a budget, tracking church attendance, and a whole host of life and work related skills. I learned math so that I could, as a matter of routine, apply it to everyday life.
The experience of the book of Romans is a lot like that. Many people who place faith in Christ as their Savior are taken to Romans 3:10–12, 3:23, 5:12, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9–10, & 10:13. These are the basics, on par with learning to count and simple addition and subtraction. However, as you dig in and study Romans—the text and context—you discover there is much more at work in this book. In it is a basic gospel presentation, one of the clearest in all of scripture, but we must ask, why is Paul presenting such a clear gospel message to the people in Rome?
As you study Romans, we harken back to one of Paul’s primary purposes for writing, that the church in Rome did not look very Jewish. When the Jews were expelled from Rome and allowed to return many years later, they walked in to find the church very different from the way they left it—it looked Gentile. With such a striking difference between Jewish and Gentile culture as well as religious practice, how could this church reconcile itself?
Chapter 12 is the culmination of Paul’s argument in the book of Romans. Every person is united in sin and a need for a Savior. Jesus Christ is the Savior to all who call on him (Ro 10:13). Chapter 11 answers questions regarding God’s plan for Israel, that he is preserving a remnant, but that the rejection of Jesus by the Jews opened the door for Gentile inclusion in a way that was never thought possible. As we consider chapter 12, the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in Christ, what then is the right response to such a great salvation?
Paul does not call Christians or the church to uniformity, he calls us to unity. He gives many commands in this passage based on the gospel that apply to all people equally, for instance, all Christians are “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice” (12:1). However, as Paul states in 12:4, although we are members of “one body in Christ” we “do not have the same function.” It is here that Paul lists many spiritual gifts given to believers to be exercised for the benefit of the body. God does not supply believers with spiritual gifts to sit on the sidelines, but that we might get in the game. This list of things that Paul is urging us to do because of the gospel will continue on into chapter 13, but suffice it to say that our salvation demands a response. We are not paying back or in any way earning or contributing to our salvation; we are simply living in response to the free gift offered through Christ.
In the comments, share with us about how you’ve seen somebody use gifts that are different from your own and how that has blessed you as you consider unity in diversity.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate