Psalm 139:13-14 New Living Translation
"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it."
There is no one like you on the planet. There has never been anyone in human history with your fingerprint, and there will never be another who carries your combination of characteristics and genetic makeup. You may be an identical twin, and still, you are utterly unique, one of a kind. No one else embodies the aspect of God that He wove into your being, and without your uniqueness, we will miss out on the fullness of His image as represented by those whom He created in His likeness.
With this universal truth in mind, I have come up against a bit of a conundrum in the church at large. It is based in one of the great tenants of the Christian faith, that we are all one in Christ.
Galatians 3:28 New Living Translation
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This unifying statement is built around the context of us being reborn into a new spiritual family when we met Jesus and committed our lives to Him. Over many years I have seen this concept give rise to the thought that we are all the same rather than living in unity. While it is true that when we gave our lives to Jesus, we were adopted into the family of God, there is more to it.
We have both a generalised identity as the body of Christ and our own unique identity in God.
In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes how we are all unique, and yet we form something greater together.
1 Corinthians 12:18-20 New Living Translation
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.
One of my favourite passages from Galatians gives us the challenge to pursue our unique identity and live it to the full.
Galatians 5:25-26 The Message
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
In working out what type of relationship we want to develop with God, there are some aspects in which we will all have similar experiences and encounters because we are one in Him. I refer to that as our generalised identity. Some Christians stop at this point and in that unified way are ready to fulfil the purposes of God. From this position they can make disciples but from the understanding that we are all the same in Christ Jesus. In their zeal to save the world, they can miss the opportunity to explore their own unique identity, also failing to recognise the uniqueness of others.
Please hear me when I say there is nothing inherently wrong with this. But it misses the opportunity to explore the depth of identity that is possible when we consider uniqueness.
Unity needs to include the celebration of the uniqueness of all. When we don’t, we all miss out on the opportunity to know the heights and the depths of the creativity of our God.
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Andee Sellman is the founder of Land Of Seven Rivers.