“Walking with God” is the theme of our next global Assembly, to be held 21-26 July 2015. But how can we walk together if we do not believe exactly the same? That was the question that a leader raised some months ago while I was visiting his community. He believed that it is not possible to walk with those who think differently than you.
That seems to be the message that we hear replicated around the world, especially when we think about religious differences. Even in our Anabaptist history we have a long record of fragmentation and divisions emerging because of strong disagreements in our doctrines and ethics. Is it possible – even desirable – to have communion in a global way when there is such diversity of cultures, ethical decisions and theological understandings?
I would say that in MWC we have discovered that diversity is not just possible but even healthy. Such diversity is manifest when we share the same foundation that has been laid: Jesus Christ.
Moreover, when I look at Scripture, I find at least three reasons why we need a global, multicultural and very diverse community.
First, Jesus. There are four gospels that speak about Jesus. Each of them reflects the experience of its author with Jesus Christ. These theological writings do not show Jesus in exactly the same way. There is a lot of diversity among them. Why do we not have just one gospel? Why do we need four different points of view that give different understandings? From its very beginning, the church saw this diversity as something crucial, something that could help us to understand who Jesus is. The primitive church did not try to harmonize the four gospels in order to give us a unique and uniform account about Jesus. We need diversity in order to know Jesus better.
Second, ethics. The text about love that we find in 1 Corinthians 13 is in the context of diversity and deep disagreements. Believers in that context, for example, differed as to what they could eat or not eat. These same believers make different decisions regard this ethical problem, decisions made possible because the Scripture itself does not give a definitive answer. In this context, the Apostle Paul urges love. From this example, it seems that diversity and even disagreements are required in the body of Christ if we want to know the meaning of unity, love, forgiveness, patience and self-denial. It is easy to love others that think the same that you think, but are we able to do so with those that think differently?
Third, vision. On the road to Emmaus, the disciples found out the truth about Jesus’ resurrection only when they sat down and had dinner together – with Jesus at the center – in spite of their differences. During the long walk from Jerusalem, they resisted the tendency of walking away from each other due to their divergent theological understandings of the Messiah. They did not find Jesus through the long hours of theological arguing. Their eyes were open only when they shared a meal. We gain a new vision of other followers of Christ – and about Christ himself – when we see people not as our opposites but as members of our family. With family, it is possible to sit and eat together in spite of our differences.
Why do we need a global community? This question is one of the topics that we address in this issue of Courier/Correo/Courrier. We need a global community and the diversity that it brings in order to know Jesus better; to grow in our experience of unity, forgiveness, love, patience and self-denial; and open our eyes to new realities that can keep us close to each other.
May God help us to walk together and love our very diverse, global church. I am looking forward to living this idea in part during Pennsylvania 2015. Come join us, and let’s walk with God!
César García, MWC general secretary, works out of the head office in Bogotá, Colombia.