Theologian D. A. Carson describes the ideal church not as a place filled with perfect, like-minded people but a community that includes not only natural friends but also our “natural enemies”, that’s, those we don’t naturally gravitate toward, those who don’t naturally identify with, even those we don’t even actually enjoy:
“Ideally” writes D.A. Carson, “the church itself is not made up of natural “friends.” It is made up natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together… because… they have all been loved by Jesus Himself. … They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus sake.” D.A. Carson — Love in Hard Places, page 61.
Jesus told his followers that in order for the world around them to know that they were Jesus’ disciples, love for one another would be their mark: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 (see also 1 John 3:23 NLT.)
Paul wrote the church at Thessalonica about the importance of loving each other. It was and is something we learn from God. He said: “But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another.” 1Th. 4:9 NLT
Finally, in his second epistle, John writes “I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.” 2 John 5-6 (see also 1 John 2:7, 3:11, 23 NLT).
By design, God created the church to be as diverse as possible. Scott Sauls, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, tells us that church should celebrate God’s vision for a diverse spiritual family. The church he pastos describes itself as follows:
“At Christ Presbyterian Church, we are a family that finds meaning in the truth, beauty, community, and mission of God. We are builders and baby boomers, gen-Xers and millennials, conservatives and progressives, educators and athletes, struggling doubters and committed believers, engineers and artists, introverts and extroverts, healers and addicts, CEOs and homemakers, affluent and bankrupt, single and married, happy and hurting, lonely and connected, stressed out and carefree, private and public schoolers, PhDs and people with special needs, experts and students, saints and sinners.”
In his excellent book “Jesus Outside the Lines: A way forward for those who are tired of taking sides” writes: “we celebrate and learn from our differences instead of dividing over them. We believe that the best expressions of community will happens when people come together with varying perspectives, personalities, cultures, and experiences.” (page 53).
In explaining D.A. Carson description of the ideal church Sauls writes: “Sometimes it takes having differences, not understanding one another, and even being a little bit irritated by and bored with one another, to remind us that the church is a family and not a club. At it best, this family dynamic of the local church functions as God’s fertile soil for growing us beyond mere tolerance toward true expressions of love and unity.” — Scott Sauls “Jesus Outside the Lines” on page 54.
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8 NLT