That they may be one . . . not same

I still remember where we were sitting on our olive green Craig’s-List-purchased couch (remember Craig’s List?) when she said to me, “I want a friend that is just like me. None of my friends are like me.”

She was eight, so I poked and discovered that “just like me” meant exactly as it sounded. They’d have the same interests, temperament, and favorite books. She expressed what many of us feel but rarely name or voice.

We want same.

Same feels safe. A known entity. Low risk and high affirmation of the things we care about most. We like a mirrored life.

When we redecorated our basement (after a pipe burst on Christmas Eve and sent us Santa Claus as an insurance agent), a friend helping me decorate said something like: Everyone is choosing the same look these days. You can get stools and couches that match the look you see in most new homes or … add pop and do it different.

Two months later, a friend showed me pictures of her newly redecorated basement: she had nearly the same stools and couch I wanted to purchase.

We like that mirrored life – it feels secure, cushioned, familiar. For example, charismatics like to share dinner with those who think and see like them, just as those in the reformed tradition may choose to circle up in a Bible study with those who think and see just like them.

All of us feel safe with same.

But Jesus prayed this when He prayed for us: “I … ask for those who will believe in me … that they may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” (John 17:21).

Could this mean that the ones who pray in tongues (and the ones who don’t), the ones who sprinkle baptize (and the ones who immerse), the ones who let women preach (and those who don’t) — that ALL of these are the ones for whom He prayed?

My examples could be much broader, and they’re not for a reason: I am suggesting here that perhaps the biblically orthodox* church across the street (that has different understandings of some of the more minor doctrines) might be one you can learn from.

{*We take orthodox from the original Greek and it means sound teaching. By biblically orthodox I mean: a broader church that clings to the historically-held tenets of the faith — we have these core, essential doctrines by which we stand. Beyond those, a secondary doctrine means “how it’s practiced.” The biblically orthodox church would share the same core doctrines of the faith, while (in theory) giving grace for the differences in how it’s practiced.}

I’m suggesting that there might be elements of your growth (and mine) that are stunted because, like my daughter once felt, we want friends who are just the same as us, and we’ve missed the heart of Jesus’ prayer. Or, rather, we wave at the attendees of those biblically orthodox churches across the street but surely wouldn’t want to learn from them.

More directly, we tolerate but we don’t receive.

Years spent walking through infertility, and at a time in our lives when we were straddling the road between two different biblically-orthodox streams, I was a magnet for input. In the same month that a friend suggested I finally accept that I’d never have biological children and receive the road God had chosen for me, another admonished me to fix my eyes onto the God of miracles.

Fifteen years later, I see the merit in both approaches.

If you read Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, you might remember the story of me standing in church and the days after that when I sensed God leading me to lay down my desires for a family. To let my dreams die. This was a significant turning point for me, to accept that my body was broken finally and to receive a road I never thought I’d have to walk. I found peace down that path. And, then, not too many years later, I woke up to the miraculous: two lines … too distinct lines. My body wasn’t supposed to do that, but He did.

I needed both whispers in my ear but at different times. (Some of you reading this are uncomfortable that I would receive one part of the advice or the other. Might I suggest that discomfort reflects our human reach for same-ness.)

A decade and a half later, Nate and I are walking through another profound loss. Because we’ve continued to toggle between both biblically-orthodox worlds (and many variations of them that include Bible-believing people), we have some friends suggesting a shift of circumstance (a miracle) may be tucked away in the days ahead and others whispering in our ears, “accepting this road and asking God to carry you through the ache of it is your way through.”

We need both.

And I’m distilling a much larger swath of differences in these two similar scenarios, but the more significant point is that we all might need both. Or many. There are many variations of biblical orthodoxy in 2023 — we have brothers and sisters of all shapes and sizes and languages … and Jesus asked God that He would make us one.

Not same.

To use Paul’s words, “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” (1 Corinthians 12:17-18)

Your church and mine likely have many ears, eyes, or noses. Like attracts like; naturally, we would. But when was the last time you read a book by a biblically orthodox author who sees life differently than your stream and with a pen in hand to take notes?

The climate surrounding issues like this seems much less heated than it was a decade ago, or even a mere five years ago. The bigger trashcan fires across America have distracted us from theological nitpicking … sort of. But at a core level, we may still be too picky about reading that book from a woman who also preached to a crowd of men and women or listening to that sermon from a man who talked about the beauty of suffering alongside his dying wife, with no mention of his prayers for her healing.

None of us were meant to carry the complete picture of God’s heart within ourselves or our church bodies. We each have a part. And a part that is terribly compromised if we merely acknowledge but don’t receive from the other parts.

If I can’t smell the apple pie a la mode, my taste is lost. If I can only see a waterfall but I can’t hear it, the beauty is veiled.

Consider: might it be time to take that charismatic or that reformed (though I’m not stating those are mutually exclusive) friend across the street to coffee to hear more of their story? Could there be a book that might speak to your soul from someone who believes in the inerrancy of scripture and who believes differently than you do about baptism … or suffering?

{Also, If you want to dive deeper into what the Word says about this concept here are a few places to start:1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Romans 12:4-8 (really all of Romans 12), Ephesians 1:22-23, Ephesians 4:4, Ephesians 4:11-16