I realize this a common theme in this blog. But imagine if as children we had learned this value.
Last night at church I let the kids pick a favorite plastic toy. They could pick a frog, lizard, or snake. They sat in their respective group and I asked, “who has the best animal?” Of course each child believed theirs is best, and could not understand why everyone did not agree. I told them the story of the really bad zoo I went to one time. Each exhibit had only one animal, and it was always a donkey. The monkey house, lion cage and elephant exhibit contained only donkeys (Yes, donkeys). Even if a donkey was your favorite animal, it would not be much fun to have a zoo with only one animal.
Church is supposed to be like a zoo, but we pretend it is enough to call it a zoo even if all the cages are filled with the same animal.
We read in scripture the need for diversity (see Romans 12 and 16, Ephesians 4) a wild mix under one roof, but we are fooling ourselves when we believe a brown donkey, black donkey, short donkey and a fat donkey means we have achieved diversity.
The animal kingdom exists in gatherings of sameness. Yet the church is the only institution designed to be contrary to our natural tendencies. It’s a place where power is never rewarded, the lowest in social standing has equal value to the highest, and there is no racial, gender, or economic advantage given. It’s a place where uniformity in thought or even belief (I suppose I am thinking of those faith communities who purpose together to look for and follow Jesus) is not needed. In fact, it is destructive.
No question it is easier to be with our own spiritual genus, but that has no power to truly transform us or display the miracle of Christian unity.
Unity cannot exist when we have uniformity.
I’m so glad The Refuge is a zoo.
I hope we can keep adding more and more different kinds of animals to it over time.
The benefits of being an inclusive and wildly diverse faith community are amazing and numerous, but like at the zoo perhaps the most compelling reason is because it is fun! How much more interesting it is to be with people I would never normally see or be with during the week and together experience transformation. How fun it is to learn from those I would never know if I were only with people of my income level, race, or spiritual background.
The zoo metaphor is illustrated in this scripture, which portrays life when Jesus makes all things right, “and the Lion will lie down with Sheep.”