From Couples to Churches: Diversity as the Demonstration of Love
"My Kind of Church" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
Diversity is the demonstration of love.
I will share a little about Lisa's and my journey together.
When we first met and for the first few decades of our marriage we were very much on the same page. You could call us an homogenous unit.
We were deeply in love, and our spiritual compatibility was never questioned. In fact, it was safely assumed.
Our spiritual and religious life together was easy.
Then, when the deconstruction of our beliefs set in, we found ourselves drifting away from our spiritual center onto our own unique spiritualities with their differing beliefs.
This was a traumatic experience for us. There were times we weren't sure we were going to make it together. It was terrifying.
We used to be so on the same page. Now we weren't sure we were even in the same book!
Normally what is done is, first
, one and the other attempts to bring the other in alignment with his or her beliefs.
, when each of us is cautious about sacrificing our own journey for the sake of the other and the relationship, we humbly attempt to modify our own positions as a kind of compromise, hoping we can meet in an imaginary middle.
, when the previous strategies fail, we may come to the conclusion that saving the relationship is impossible because the chasm between us is too great.
, having survived the previous failed attempts at reconciliation and not desiring to separate, we may begin to learn to respect and even honor the chosen path of our partner.
I suggest the fourth way is the best. It is best because I claim it is the highest demonstration of love.
It isn't love to force another to your position.
It isn't love to feel forced to sacrifice yours.
It isn't love to reject the other. (Although sometimes love is acknowledging incompatible differences and letting the other go.)
It is love to honor diversity in the relationship.
Lisa and I have discovered that unity does not necessarily mean homogeneity.
We've also learned that love does not mean spiritual compatibility.
We are experiencing love in our diversity at a deeper level than we've ever loved before.
Loving a mirror reflection of ourselves is hardly a challenge. But loving the other as other is the true test of love because we've come to know that the expression of unity is the dynamic union of diversity.
Our love has deepened. This does not mean our challenges have ceased. Rather, we must daily commit to love in all our difference and diversity. It's a new and exciting way to be in relationship.
The same dynamic can be applied to the church. What happens between Lisa and I can happen in larger communities as well. I've experienced it‚ the deep appreciation of the expression of an inherent unity that underlies the vast diversity expressed within the community.
Whether it is diversity in gender, sexuality, lifestyle, economics, race, age, ability, or beliefs, these are, when given space, all manifestations of the deep and underlying unity and reconciliation of all things, and are appreciated as such. We appreciate that differences are not anomalies to unity, but manifestations of it.
Churches nor members should force others to conform to their beliefs. Neither should both endeavor to find the impossible and imaginary middle ground of mutual compromise. What we often see instead is a separation into loyal differing parties. Rather, why not embrace the wide diversity representative of the whole human race and enjoy the truest demonstration of unity with mutual respect and love?
As we mature, we realize that homogeneity is not unity but uniformity.
True unity is diversity conjoined in love.
(I am a spiritual freedom coach and can help you through this process. Check it out here.)