You've no doubt heard the expression, "Are we on the same page?" It can mean a lot of different things depending on what it refers to and who we ask. When we use this phrase, we're really asking, "Are you in agreement with me?"
The desire to be in agreement can be a good thing, depending on what it is. If I say, "Let's go around the neighborhood and help people clean up their yards or lend them a hand at whatever is needed, and ask, "Are we on the same page?" That's a good thing.
If I stick a gun in your hand, explain my plan to rob a bank, then ask, "Are we on the same page?" Well, that's not such a good thing. First, I don't recommend robbing banks. Also, I have no experience robbing banks, so it would be a doubly high risk proposition.
But not all requests for agreement are that benign or extreme.
When it comes to "being on the same page" about what we believe and practice, far too many assumptions can be made. One in particular seems to be common—when unity is seen as uniformity.
The idea that we all look the same, talk the same, and act the same may seem like a good idea, but it is not true unity. It is conformity or uniformity.
It's the tactic that spawns cults and totalitarian governments. Of course, those are extreme examples, but when organizations or groups require uniformity to create unity, they are moving in the same direction.
If you look at a typical church, you'll likely see more uniformity than unity—people who look the same, act similar, and come from common backgrounds and circumstances. We, people in general, tend to gravitate towards conformity rather than diversity.
Unity is more about harmony than conformity. (Tweet this)
When I started playing the guitar I learned about harmony.
Each basic guitar chord has three essential notes that create a harmonious sound. There is a primary or root note, and two other notes within an eight-note scale—the one, three, and fifth notes. "Do(h), re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do(h)," is how the eight-note scale is sung.
A major chord would be, "Do, me, and so." In a C-major chord, that would be the notes, C, E, and G. Yet these are three distinct notes.
Now stay with me, because there is a point to this illustration.
Those notes fit together to make a certain sound. Each note can be put together to form other chords. When the notes don't go together the right way, there's no harmony. They don't agree with each another, and it sounds awful.
The notes need to fit together and function together as a whole, yet they remain distinct as individual notes. When different notes blend together in any chord configuration, there is both diversity and harmony. When there is agreement, there is unity—a unified sound—and it is pleasant to the ear.
Diversity and Unity
But how can unity exist with diversity? Aren't they polar opposites?
You would think so. Yet, unity with diversity is common in our world.
When you enjoy a day at the beach you're experiencing the distinct elements of a specific and unified ecosystem. Listening to an orchestra, well conducted and on the same page of sheet music, distinct instruments and notes blend together in harmony.
What is the key to seeing unity and diversity, or harmony, in a community of believers or a church body?
Acceptance and trust. Just as the Lord Jesus accepts us individually, we (believers) are to do the same. And as we collectively trust in Him as the leader of our community, we need to extend trust to one another.
When people learn to embrace diversity instead of avoid it, we will see genuine unity. Whether it's a nation or a church body.
Although our natural (self-serving) tendency is to seek out a homogenous group of people, those who are like us, God has something better planned.
And they sang a new song, saying:“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 NIV) [italics mine for emphasis]
If this is God's plan—to have a diverse yet unified people populate His kingdom—shouldn't we pursue this now on planet earth?
What's your experience with diversity within unity?
You can share it in the comments...