The 18th century Englishman, John Spilsbury, was an engraver and mapmaker in London. He is also credited with being the inventor of the jigsaw puzzle.
In 1767 Spilsbury mounted a map on a piece of hard wood and carved around the borders of each country as a means to teach geography to children. Seeing the puzzle as a potential business opportunity he created puzzles based on 8 different themes–the World, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.
Later in the 1800’s, with the invention of cardboard, puzzles became popular as an enjoyable past time.
A puzzle begins with many shapes, sizes, and colors dumped onto a table. But with persistence and perseverance what looks like a diverse, unrelated pile of pieces becomes a unified, beautiful picture.
This is an apt metaphor for the Family of God. We come to Christ individually. With different sizes and shapes physically, mentally, socially, economically and racially. But Jesus sets the framework. He sees the big picture. He puts together the various pieces to become one. United in purpose. Mission. Ministry. Message. He creates a fellowship with a unity in its unique diversity.
At this point let me state clearly what I don’t mean. I am not talking about a diversity of moral, ethical or doctrines beliefs. I am not advocating compromise of the gospel. Or a superficial union of opposing Biblical beliefs or spiritual values.
Jesus set the tone for unity in diversity when he picked the apostles. They covered the political, social and economic spectrum. Simon was a radical Zealot seeking the overthrow of Rome. Matthew was a tax collector, considered a traitor to the Jews and in collusion with Rome. At least four were fisherman. There were brothers. And close friends from Capernaum. They would exemplify a diverse religious movement.
Dr. R.C. Sproul points out that the Twelve “represented the church in miniature.” We see among them the kind of diversity of backgrounds that the church is to reflect. Additionally, we know that the regular band of disciples, or “learners,” who followed Jesus included not only the twelve Apostles but also many other men and women such as Mary Magdalene, Susanna, and Joanna.
Later Matthias and Saul of Tarsus would be added to the number of the apostles. Saul, who became known as Paul, was a Roman citizen, highly educated and greatly admired in Jewish circles. He was yet another piece to the puzzle to spread the message of Christ around the world.
Paul condemned division among Believers and called for unity (1Cor 1:10). Regarding miraculous spiritual gifts he wrote, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” (1 Cor 12:4-6).
Converts to Christianity expanded beyond the Jewish people to the Samaritans, a government official from Ethiopia, who was a eunuch, and a Gentile military officer named Cornelius (Acts 8, 10). Later Paul would write, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-28).
If this passage was penned today it might add, “there is neither black nor white, there is neither Asian nor European, there is neither Hispanic nor Latino, there is neither Indian nor Native American; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It is a shame to see divisions among brethren based on race, geography or socio-economic differences. Furthermore it is disheartening and often disgusting to witness the polarization regarding politics. The question is being asked by the media regarding the candidates, “How low can they go?” I’m beginning to wonder the same thing about some brethren as I read facebook posts.
I know it’s difficult to see another person’s point of view. Often it is almost impossible to understand because of differences in background, experiences, and culture. But as brethren, we must work to “accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7).
May we be a light to the world that even through our diversity others can see our spiritual unity in Christ.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman