Our culture values individuality, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We know from Romans 12 that the body of Christ is made up of different parts; so it’s important that we recognize our differences. However, our culture guards individual differences fiercely, to the point where the differences themselves are more important than what we do with them. While Paul wrote in Romans 12:5 that all members are different, he also wrote that each member “belongs to all the others.” The world would have us believe that we ought to defend our differences, even if it means dividing people. It’s no wonder that the world is in such turmoil over so many selfish things.
Unfortunately, we see this in the church, too. Where our differences ought to be used to build up the body; we use them to tear it down. The church is in turmoil when we focus on our differences rather than on our common goals and purpose. So Paul warns us to change our perspective from ourselves to the body. In Ephesians 5:15-21 he writes: “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
So, even though Paul knew that we are all different, he directed us to put our differences aside out of our love for Jesus. Even though our differences are important and can be used in important ways to bring people into God’s kingdom and to build up the body of Christ, we need to put others ahead of ourselves. This is more than merely being “nice”; Paul says this is a practical matter. We must submit to others “because the days are evil” and to make the most of every opportunity. If we focus on ourselves, we will miss the opportunity to bring others into the kingdom. If our differences within the church become more important than leading others to Christ, then we have become fools who do not understand what God’s will is. I have a lot to give up; what about you?