The community of the incompatible

May 19, 2010 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

In the aftermath of the General Election in May 2010, and the establishment of Britain’s first coalition government for 70 years, I was very struck by a comment from Revd John Marsh, the United Reformed Church’s moderator of General Assembly:

As the church we are well acquainted with coalitions. After all, we are the community of the incompatible, called to be a sign to the world of disparate people and traditions summoned to be God’s own people to proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.

It would be tempting to think of a healthy church as one whose members are always of one mind, a place where ripples of tension or dissent are unknown. Perhaps we’d all like to be in such a church!

But that’s not the place to which Jesus invites us. For just as he called and included among his disciples both Matthew the tax collector and Simon the zealot (the one a collaborator with the occupying Roman regime, the other a member of the nationalist Resistance), so he continues to summon even polar opposites to serve him together.

It follows that the real test of a healthy church will be not how readily its people agree, but how difference or disagreement are handled. After all, it is an impoverished kind of unity that depends on uniformity. Instead, the Christian conviction is that all of us who seek to follow Jesus have something unique to bring to the table – different gifts and talents, but also different insights, opinions and preferences. Our task is to recognise and affirm this diversity, transforming a potential source of tension into a resource for confidence and growth.

As our nation’s new government gets to grips with collaborative working in a partnership which perhaps few would have predicted as viable, it may just be that the Church – the community of the incompatible – can stand as a model of consensus, welcome and respect. And guided by God’s Spirit, may we all learn not merely to tolerate difference, but to celebrate and cherish it.

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Entry filed under: church, current affairs, journalling, other people's stuff, URC. Tags: , , , , .

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