We are to be united, but we also need to allow for the God-given diversity among us. But we sometimes get those areas turned around. We try to force sameness in the diversity among us.
We see many references where the writers of the Bible describe us as buildings and structures of God. We can represent how we define God’s church in us with the illustration of the triangle of unity. This triangle shows that there is a separation between the areas we need to be united about and those areas were we can celebrate diversity in.
The bottom three sections, Person of Jesus, Biblical Passages, and God’s Principles, are areas that we need to be united on. We then can celebrate the diversity in our preferences and practices as long as they are built upon the unifying layers.
Person of Jesus, Biblical Passages, and God’s Principles
We start at the foundation of the triangle in the “Person of Jesus”. In this we must be united. We cannot compromise on this message.
Paul wants to make sure that like any good builder, that a structure is built on a good foundation. And we cannot deviate from building our foundation on Jesus.
We are being built up by God on the foundational truth of Jesus. Not through some activity or religious action. But through Jesus, the cornerstone.
Again Paul is talking about building our spiritual house on the foundation of Jesus.
Paul is telling Timothy to do all that he could to present himself to God, using God’s standard. To diligently study biblical passages and truth.
Paul says to keep working with the Bible and what has been learned. When Paul speaks of knowing from infancy, he is referencing the fact that at some point someone began their learning by being taught by someone else. We are to continue on in learning but also teaching that what we have learned.
Preferences and Practices
Our expression of our appreciation for Lord Jesus is welcome. We must allow diversity here. Can’t we see the danger where we see people trying to dictate and control preferences? We see people skip all the things learned in the bottom three levels of the triangle to skip straight to preferences. So then they believe that unity has to exist in preference and practices for us to be connected together.
Some churches try to turn the pyramid upside down. This leads churches to only allow hymns to be sung, or certain instruments to be played. They say that only a certain biblical transaction is acceptable. They build their religious spiritual building upside-down. They choose the sand over the solid foundation.
This means that our preference and practices are limited only to the unity of the lower levels of the pyramid. Can you lift your hands in worship? YES Can you put your hands in your pockets in worship? YES Can you be quite and reserved in your faith? YES Can you be outgoing and excited? YES
When our diversity is built upon our unity, we can be confident that we are in right relationship with each other and with God.
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (ESV)
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, (ESV)
14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (ESV)
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (ESV)