I grew up outside the church and always marveled that my “Christian” friends seemed to belong to different tribes. Each tribe had their own customs and ways of believing and each told me that “their way” was the “right” way, the “one true” way. They all loved Jesus, but they seemed not to like one another very much. My Baptist friends judged my Catholic friends, and my Catholic friends passed judgment on my Methodist friends and there I was the clueless one in the middle trying to reconcile what all of them were telling me about this “Jesus” character. How could they all claim to follow the same man who sounded so loving and yet hold such distain for their fellow sisters and brothers? It was this disunity that kept me from exploring the Christian tradition for many years.
It is strange how God calls each of us into the same place over and over in our lives. When I first moved to Richmond I started a women’s ministry made up of a very diverse group of women from all different denominations. From that group of women, I began to see the differences in the way we understand our faith, not as a divisive tool, but as different hews of the same rainbow. I began to see the beauty of the Catholic tradition because of the beauty of the Catholic Christians who followed that tradition, I began to see the beauty of the Baptist tradition because of the beauty of the Baptist Christians who followed that tradition and my Presbyterian friends showed me the beauty of the Presbyterian tradition through the way they lived out their faith. I began to love the diversity of the collective Christian tradition and rather than see our faith as shattered or fragmented, I began to see it as an intricate mosaic that collectively revealed a very mysterious, complex God that could never be fully understood by the human mind or explained through manmade theological statements.
Today, I find myself back in that same place; surrounded by Christians from all different traditions and each one passionate about “their way” and as in the beginning, I am in the middle pretty clueless about the whole thing; willing to admit that I simply don’t have all the answers. Our leadership team possesses every hew of the rainbow from far left to far right on the theological continuum. I love the beauty of our team. Collectively we illuminate the fullness of Christ. Julie reminds me that Christ message is one of love and Jamie reminds me that it is my own sin that keeps me from fully receiving that love. Janie reminds me that God is my comforter and healer; that still small voice that is always present. Joe reminds me that God is fun; God wants me to laugh and dance and sing and shout. Becky reminds me that God is in control, that even when I mess things up, God’s plan will succeed. Tammy reminds me that God is my wise councilor willing to speak truth in love. Louis is our newest teammate and I am not sure yet which part of the “truth” of Christ he will bring to our rainbow but I know his heart is pure and his love of Christ just as real and true as the rest of this amazing team and I am open to seeing Christ revealed through him.
I know my role as the leader of Embrace would be far easier if we were all from the same tribe and all saw Christ through the same lens. However, God’s unique call on my life is to create safe spaces where the fullness of Christ body can co-exist and honor and respect one another while working toward Christ command to love our neighbors. I get to stand in awe at the beauty that is revealed through our collective perspectives; we are like a diamond that reveals different colors depending on the angle of the light.
Our key verse at Embrace is Micah 6:8 “Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly”. Humility is the key to Christian unity. When we accept that God is so much bigger than our finite minds can comprehend and that no matter how smart we are or how well we know our bible, we can never fully comprehend God, then the differences cease to be a tool of division but instead become simply hews of God’s beautiful rainbow. Can you see the beauty of Christ shining through those who do not believe as you do? Isn’t it a beautiful sight to behold? God is a great big God who radiates through all those who humbly seek, regardless of their theology. God sees the heart while man stands and judges theology. I pray that somehow by the power of the Holy Spirit we can learn to see as Christ sees and love as Christ loved without letting theological differences divide and destroy the beauty of the Body united.