Today on ESPN.com, Micheal Smith write a penetrating article about the character of the two men who have led their respective NFL teams to the Superbowl this year. In his article, Smith basically ends up repeating Dr. Kings call to judge men on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. And he does this because the two aforementioned coaches happen to be black - and that has been the focus of much of the media coverage, instead of who these men are and how they live their lives.
As I read this article, it resonated with me because it reflects an idea that has long been treading the deep waters of my mind, and continues to come up for air, even though the 'stuff' of life often pushes it down to lower depths. It's an idea that, I think, for a couple of decades, was the goal of many in all aspects of our lives, but in recent years has been turned on its head.
That idea is Dr. Martin Luther King's exhortation that I mention above. That men be judged by the content of their character - regardless of the color of their skin. And while his name has been tossed about almost carelessly this month, attributed to so many things that I'm not sure anyone really knows who he was or what he was about anymore. It seems that in our society at large, the people who Dr. King was trying so disparately to help, have turned away from many of the things that he longed to see.
And what I am talking about more than anything else is the cultivation of distinction. I see it in Sports (as noted in the above article), I see it in Politics more than anywhere else, but more recently I see it in ever increasing measure within the church. And while there is certainly a place for celebrating diversity and understanding differences among people groups in all these areas of our life, it seems that we have moved past celebration, and have collectively been carried into cultivation. Now this may not be an issue in Sports (it is), it may not be an issue in politics (it is), but I certainly do feel that it is a bigger issue in the Church.
At what point does cultivating distinction become an obstacle to the Unity of the church and an obstacle to the gospel? To use Smith's argument, when will a True understanding of the gospel be good enough, without it needing to be recognized as a black understanding or an Anglo understanding? When will Truth be recognized again as Truth, regardless of the skin color of the author, or the preacher, or the ears of the hearer? Application of Truth is always going to be different for different people, both within the same culture group and without - but Truth remains and while application is subjective to circumstance, history and other context; Divine Principle is not.
Truth is not malleable, but people are. And above all other people, those who should be most malleable are Christians - but only as they are conformed more and more to the likeness of Christ. And that conformation, no matter how different we are to begin with, should not only draw us to look more and more like Christ, but as an immediate consequence, should cause us to look more and more like one another. That is the Unity of the Church, and that is what we are called to. We need to do more to embrace more fully the areas where we are ALIKE, and be more open and teachable in the areas where we are different, using Divine Principle (i.e. the Word of God) as our starting point, our standard, our Source and our Norm.