On the night of April 27, 2014 tornados touched down in several parts of central Arkansas. In Mayflower, the tornado tore through neighborhoods, leveling many houses in its path. Yet as I looked back at old photos, one image stood out to me. It’s of a street in which one side was completely decimated, but on the other side of the street the houses appear to be almost completely untouched. It’s the same tornado in the same neighborhood. I guarantee you that families on both sides of the street were traumatized after that experience. Kids and adults had nightmares for weeks or months if not a lifetime. Both have some clean up after the fact. But there is a lot of difference too.
I alluded to this last week but living through the last 15+ months has been like riding out an intense storm. And like living through the thunderstorm season, we can receive similar warnings and go through similar storms with radically different effects. And those differences shape how we think and feel, hopes and fears.
It’s not unlike what it is like to come together as a body of faith. Every Sunday when we gather, we bring overlapping hopes and fears and we bring divergent perspectives, priorities, political leanings, struggles, and concerns. Every Sunday when we go, we enter a community with similar struggles with family and finances, work, health, and hope for a better world, but also very divergent experiences and perspectives, fears and dreams.
Ephesians 4:1-6 paints a beautiful picture of the oneness of God and the unity that should bind all humanity together and certainly should stitch together followers of Jesus who have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father who is over all and through all and in all.” But zoom out on the lens just a moment and you will see that Paul leans heavily into unity because of the diversity that threatens to divide the church. Unity has never meant uniformity. The church comes together from very different places and perspectives to display a model of what God always desired for his creation. It doesn’t always come naturally in our world separated by walls of difference, so we “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” And what are qualities that help us get there? We remain “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”