In old Sesame Street episodes, there used to be a recurring spot that involved four kids (on one of the earliest “split-screen” videos that I can remember), each engaging in an ordinary activity. Viewers – who were expected to be children themselves, even as parents occasionally looked up from their chores to watch – were asked to pick out the one whose actions were different from the others. There was even a little jingle that accompanied this regular feature, but I won’t try to sign it, here. (You’re welcome.)
In a world where our differences seem to define us, common ground can be difficult to find. Jokes circulate about romantic dates that were going well, but had to be called off because the two parties found out that they were fans of rival sports teams. People are judged by the political party they vote for, or their taste in music. We may appreciate the things that we can relate to in other people, but many heated words are spilled over what distinguishes us from others.
In the 12th chapter of the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul the apostle drives home a key message of unity for those who follow Jesus:
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.
1 Corinthians 12:4 NLT
Whether God has decided to have you manifest His Spirit’s characteristics through service, teaching, prophecy, or anything else; these are gifts from Him, and not something we should become prideful of. Like receiving an unexpected gift in the mail (a real one; not those cheesy e-mail messages in your spam folder), once we know who it came from, we know who to thank.
And, just because someone else received a different gift than you, we can be mature enough to appreciate that being equally loved by God doesn’t mean that we must all be identical, in order to work together for His good.
There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord.
1 Corinthians 12:5 NLT
While we may feel fulfilled by serving according to how God has blessed us (and even see results as He works through our use of the gifts that He gave us), our accomplishments aren’t for our own pride or self-acclamation. They are to be used in service of the One who guides each of us towards the greater good that He has planned.
After all, this is what the statement, “Jesus is Lord” means: We choose to let Him be in charge. We trust His wisdom to allocate to each of us the skills and opportunities needed to do our part.
God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
1 Corinthians 12:6 NLT
Finally, no matter what we may accomplish, God deserves the glory. He is the Creator and – even though He has given us the choice whether or not to follow Him – we owe everything to Him. If, after originally pursuing a path of sin, we choose to re-enter into a relationship with Him (reconciled through His gift of salvation), we become part of His family, working together to achieve His goals, established in love for all humankind.
Let us celebrate the differences that God has shared with us, but not forget that we are united in serving the same Lord, and working towards the same goal. If you are already striving to do this, thank you for serving God differently than me, while letting me do the same.
See also Corpus Christi, Part 1