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Unity of Convictions Among a Diversity of Cultures

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Unity of Convictions Among a Diversity of Cultures

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Seeing the different cultures of people God has called into His Church, it brings home a biblical truth of great importance—God is the creator of unity of purpose while generating a diversity of forms. Just as He created the flowers with one basic structure yet with different forms and colors, so He has created human beings with one basic form but with different personalities and color tones.

This same principle of unity of substance and diversity of forms also applies to God's Church—the members around the world have a unity of beliefs and convictions, while at the same time they have a diversity of cultures and personalities.

Paul mentions this principle in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 [12] For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. [13] For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
American King James Version×
: "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit."

Here we see the principle of respecting the diversity of cultures, while keeping a unity of spiritual beliefs.

Members of the Same Body

Paul continues, "For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,' is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,' is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body" (1 Corinthians 12:14-20 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 [14] For the body is not one member, but many. [15] If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? [16] And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? [17] If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? [18] But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased him. [19] And if they were all one member, where were the body? [20] But now are they many members, yet but one body.
American King James Version×
).

Paul is telling us we have an essential element among us—God's Spirit—that makes us members of the Body, and yet we recognize there is a diversity of roles, cultures and personalities. He mentions we should not discriminate against some because they are culturally or racially different than we are or because they may falsely regard themselves as having a lesser role to play in the Church, the Body of Christ.

He continues explaining this point, "And the eye [one of the most prominent organs of the body] cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.

"And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism [division or discrimination] in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually" (1 Corinthians 12:21-27 1 Corinthians 12:21-27 [21] And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. [22] No, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: [23] And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. [24] For our comely parts have no need: but God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked. [25] That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. [26] And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. [27] Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
American King James Version×
).

We see here that the Body of Christ has a unity of Spirit, but a diversity of roles, cultures, personalities and languages. Each culture has its strengths and weaknesses and no one nation has all the virtues nor always has the right approach. It is important to appreciate the different cultures and realize they mutually excel each other in many points, while at the same time, recognizing all have different weaknesses.

These principles are very helpful in adapting to the diverse cultures, while keeping clear in mind what unites all of us in the Church—our common beliefs and the ultimate goal—to develop godly character.

Serving an International Work

After living 24 years abroad in different parts of Latin America, this has been a great lesson driven home to me. I have learned in our Church there is a unity of faith while having a diversity of cultures that should be appreciated and respected. I believe these two factors are essential to apply if we are to succeed in carrying the gospel in all the world and preparing a people for God's coming Kingdom.

During the international meetings we had May 1 before the recent General Conference of Elders, one question we discussed was, How can the cultures of the different nations be respected since the thrust of the work of God comes primarily from the United States?

A way to assure that the different cultures are being taken into account is the manner The Good News is now produced, which is the primary vehicle in all these countries. The editorial staffs in the different nations have a certain leeway to adapt the magazine to their culture. For instance, in Great Britain, a supplement is added with articles pertaining to local news that gives the magazine more of a British flavor. Germany edits the magazine to make it more acceptable to the German mentality. The same occurs in the Spanish and other editions. This perspective was not always so decades ago, but from the start, United has striven to have this awareness. It has avoided endless problems with the readership in other countries apart from the United States.

A Difficult Balance

It is a difficult balance to achieve—to adapt to peoples of different cultures, nationalities and races according to their perspective and mentality while at the same time keeping in mind the goal of having a unity of faith and helping them develop spiritual character so they can work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

Paul explains this concept in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 [19] For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant to all, that I might gain the more. [20] And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; [21] To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. [22] To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. [23] And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
American King James Version×
: "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law [Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes]; to those who are without the law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak.

"I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you."

Avoiding Feelings of Superiority

When abroad and dealing with different cultures, Paul stresses it is so important not to transmit a feeling of superiority toward another culture. The key concept Paul brings out is not to force people to adapt to our culture, but rather we should adapt to their culture.

It took a miracle from God for Peter, the once proud Jew, to learn this lesson. We read in Acts 10:28 Acts 10:28And he said to them, You know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come to one of another nation; but God has showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
American King James Version×
, "Then he said to them [to the Roman Cornelius and his kinsmen], 'You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.'"

Then Peter adds in verse 34, "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him."

The basic problem is that, due to our particular background, we all have hidden prejudices to get rid of if we want God to bless His work around the world. It is just a matter of recognizing it, limiting it and trying to fully eliminate it while learning to appreciate the beauty and worth of other cultures.

Look at the news of the present world. Isn't it sad to see so much killing and mayhem, many times due to prejudice, because at the bottom of their hearts, people can't appreciate and respect the cultures of their neighbors?

True Christianity begins when we don't feel superior to others.

This is a great lesson I have tried to learn from others who gave me such a fine example, and have tried to apply wherever I have gone—to appreciate and respect the diversity of cultures, while at the same time, striving to teach the unity of doctrine and Spirit in the Church. It is a goal worthy for all of us to pursue. UN