Are the differences between Christians a problem or an asset?

This article is a reflection on a passage from the "Letter 2012 - Towards a new solidarity", in which Brother Alois wrote:
It must be recognized that we Christians often obscure this message of Christ. In particular, how can we radiate peace if we remain divided?

The contemporary world takes the individual as a starting-point. Our contemporaries have a strong sense of the equality, or even the similarity, of all human beings, and so they are impatient with all natural or cultural distinctions. Each person should potentially be able to do everything, be free to invent his or her own life. Such an attitude leads, in practice, to an glorification of diversity. The identity of all is taken for granted but, concretely, plurality is what prevails.

It is not surprising that such a vision of things does not foster community. What is the “glue” able to bond together all the identical and separate units? And so, in the life of the Church, it happens that the diversity of approaches is extolled while unity remains merely theoretical. And then, in reaction to this, some attempt to impose uniformity and to exclude anything that does not fit into the common mold.

The biblical outlook offers us a way out of this dead-end. It does not begin with the individual, but with a loving God who calls beings into existence (see Romans 4:17). And God does not call them one by one, but rather for a common endeavor. It is Jesus the Messiah who reveals God’s project to us: humanity is invited to receive God’s own life, the source of a universal friendship, in order to form one Body (see Colossians 3:15).

In this perspective, each person has an irreplaceable role to play and unique gifts to develop, but always in the context of an all-inclusive communion. I do not have to do everything and have everything, because other people will make up for my lacks. In fact, I even need them, since I cannot manage all alone. At the same time, my contribution is essential for the progress of the whole.

Saint Paul explains this by the well-known image of the body (see Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12). This metaphor brings together great diversity and deep unity. If the hand wanted to be the head at all costs, or the heart the foot, the whole body would cease to function. And even the seemingly most insignificant parts are absolutely necessary. In fact, we should not even speak of greater or lesser body parts, because it is not a question of competition but of one shared life.

Christians do not need to be afraid of their limits or deny the differences that constitute them. Knowing that they do not create their own existence from scratch, they must discover the specific gifts which God has placed in them so that these can bear fruit. They are called to put their gifts at the service of the entire Body. The same thing is true, moreover, of different Christian communities. Their “right to difference” only has meaning within the global project of God to “bring all things together with Christ as Head” (Ephesians 1:10). If we lose sight of this universal communion, then differences can indeed be a problem. If we remain within it, then they are a great asset, a reflection of the “multicolored grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).

Last updated: 10 June 2012