God calls for unity in diversity among his people. Life in nature objects to uniformity. In the branches of the vine there is unity in diversity. There is a variety in a tree; scarcely two leaves are just alike. And this variety adds to the perfection of the tree as a whole. In the human body, from the eyes to the feet there is variety. And all these members are dependent upon one another to make a perfect whole. In all the variety composing the human body, there is harmonious action, in conformity to the laws controlling the being. There is an unseen, conscious, invisible unity, keeping the bodily machinery in action, each part working in harmony with every other part.
God Uses Our Individuality
In our Bible, we might ask, why need Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in the Gospels, why need the writer of the Acts of the Apostles, and the various writers of the Epistles so largely go over the same ground? The Lord gave his Word in just the way he wanted it to come. He gave it through different writers, each having his own individuality, though going over the same history. The different testimonies are brought together in one book, and are like the testimonies in a social meeting. They do not represent things in just the same style. Each writer has an experience of his own, and this diversity broadens and deepens the knowledge that is brought out to meet the necessities of varied minds. The thoughts expressed have not a set uniformity, as if cast in an iron mould, making the very hearing monotonous. In such a uniformity there would be a loss of grace and distinctive beauty.
We are not to feel that we must all speak the very same things, giving the same representation in the same words; and yet there is to be unity in the diversity. All the different testimonies should unite to form one whole, as the books of the Bible are brought together to form one Book. But should Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John go off on some tangent, contradicting the testimony of the others, there would be confusion. In all the representation of truth by different minds, there is to be unity in diversity. One must not labor to have everything that comes from his mind entirely different from that which comes from another man’s mind. But he is to follow in the line where the Spirit of the Lord shall direct. Then there will be different figures and different ways of presentation that will interest and educate different minds. Some are always straining to get something original. This places them in great danger. They produce something new, that is not according to the Word of God, and they have not the discernment to see the real harm that results from their ambition to excel some other one on new and strange productions. Thus error comes to appear to them as truth, and they present it as wonderful new light, when it is an innovation that makes of none effect a “Thus saith the Lord.”
Let all be under the control of the Holy Spirit. Under the direction of this Spirit, one may use the same words that others have used under similar guidance. He should not make an effort to do this; or not to do it; he should leave his mind to be acted upon by the Holy Spirit. There is one thing all should do. They should endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Beauty in Variety
Churches are to be built in many places, but they need not all be built in precisely the same style. Different styles of building may be appropriate to different locations.
In the breastplate of the high priest there were many stones, but each stone had its special light, adding to the beauty of the whole. Each stone had its special significance, bearing its important message from God. There were many stones, but one breastplate. So there are many minds, but one Mind. In the church there are many members, each having his peculiar characteristics, but they form one family.
The Creator of all ideas may impress different minds with the same thought, and each may express it in a different way, yet without contradiction. The fact that this difference exists should not perplex or confuse us. It is seldom that two persons view and express truth in the very same way. Each dwells on the particular point which his constitution and education enable him to appreciate. The sunlight falling on different objects gives these objects different hues.
Through the inspiration of his Spirit the Lord gave his apostles truth, to be expressed according to the development of their minds by the Holy Spirit. But the mind is not cramped, as if forced into a certain mould. Men may not have the same way of viewing and expressing truth as we have, yet they may be just as precious in the sight of God as we are. There is not to be a thread of selfishness or self-exaltation in our work; for we are to draw our spiritual supplies from the same storehouse, and are wholly dependent upon God for his grace and his Spirit.
If there is a difference of expression in presenting truth, let everyone seek to present all things in the light of the glory which shines in the face of Christ. The more we as believers drink in his Spirit, the more we shall be animated and delighted by his surpassing love, and the more we shall reveal of that tender, compassionate disposition which made our blessed Master so long and patiently bear with the misunderstandings of those whom he had selected as his workmen. They were to be educated in close communion, yet their thoughts might vary.
We are often exhorted, “Be ye all of one mind,” which means the same as, “Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” [1 Peter 3:8; Ephesians 4:3.] All should seek to draw as closely as possible together, by dwelling upon those things on which all can agree, rather than upon those things which seem to create a difference.
“All ye are brethren.” [Matthew 23:8.] “Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price.” [1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.] God is our owner. The same blood that purchased one brother purchased the next also, and the next. All are born of God by the same Spirit. All are members of the same body, and are worked by the same Spirit. The sustenance of all comes from the same source. All feed on the flesh and blood of the Son of God, the Word, which is spirit and life. We must not think it a virtue to differ. We are in close bonds of relationship with one another. If the same vitalizing current is flowing through our minds and hearts, we shall not act in harmony. In failing to do this, we deny the Source of all spiritual life.
Different Minds, One Spirit
By the meekness and lowliness of Christ’s earthly life, the exhortation is given, “Love as brethren,” as members of the same family. Notwithstanding your dissimilarity in habit and character, “be pitiful, be courteous.” [1 Peter 3:8.] True love is not a mere emotion; it does not consist in sentiment alone. It is a principle, manifested by works, noble, unselfish deeds. When God’s people are actuated by this love, all plans, all activities, will be appreciated as coming from one Source.
Those who place themselves under the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness will catch the heavenly glow. The softening, subduing love of Christ will fill their hearts, and the grace of his tenderness will mellow their spirit. They will work out what God works in. What they cannot do, God can do and will do through them if they will heed his counsel. All things are possible to him.
If we work in God’s order, our inability will bring out the assurance of his sufficiency. What it is impossible for the human agent to do, God can do through him. Begin then, and advance in your appointed work, believing that it is the right thing to do, and expecting the Lord to help you and lead you in clear lines, working in and through you. As the Lord’s mind becomes your mind, a divine tenderness will take possession of your soul. The channel that has been choked by misunderstandings will be cleared. The debris will be cleared away by the current of Christ’s love. This love will flow out to others. Be pitiful to those whom you regard as weak and erring. In your work manifest the compassion of Christ. See how often his love broke forth in expressions of sympathy for the unshepherded flock, the hungry multitudes.
With many it is much easier to criticize, rebuke, and condemn, than to speak words of encouragement. As laborers together with God, we are not to think lightly of the souls who have cost the Lord so much, and who through the giving of his own Son to live in humanity, may have everlasting life. While we are to show no mercy for sin, we are to labor in love for the perishing sinner, pointing him to Christ on the cross, suffering as a sin-bearer because he loved men.
Excerpt by Ellen G. White, author and co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Manuscript 105, 1900, “Unity in Diversity,” June 30, 1900; reprinted with permission.