Pastoral Perspectives

Unity in Diversity

“We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.”

Many of you are familiar with this pledge. Many years have passed since the inception of the pledge in 1966 and it is recited daily at school assemblies and at every National Day Parade. 

It shows the grit and tenacious heart of the leaders who recognise and accept the differences in the citizens and urge them to go beyond those differences in forging a common national identity. 

As our society strives for a fair and inclusive environment, our church community should do the same or even better, but as believers, it is crucial that our convictions be guided by the Word of God. 

Scripture reveals that diversity is intentional and celebrated in creation. The Bible is full of examples that celebrate God’s design and purpose. God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-28) with diverse abilities, gifts and personalities. From one man, he made every nation of mankind to live on the earth (Acts 17:26). Because of the Fall, man continued to rebel against the plans and purposes of God.

What happened at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) reminds us that unity does not always have positive results. God had to disperse the people. But Christ came to redeem us from our selfish desires that continue to divide us and tear us apart. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has reconciled us with God and with one another. 

We are adopted into a new community where all members with diverse backgrounds are valued as part of God’s new family. This does not mean that we all begin to look and act like one another. Rather, it means we are able to celebrate the differences and use such diversity for the sole purpose of honouring and glorifying God. 

As believers who belong to this new family of God, our pledge then is not based on age, gender, race, or status but is anchored in Christ alone (v26, 28b).

By coming to Christ and placing our faith in Him, we are united with Christ. Our union with Christ enables us to die to sin and become more and more like Him. The Holy Spirit works in the believers to bring about a transformation that is seen in the way they live out their lives in the community. 

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female” (v28a). We all come from different backgrounds and Scripture recognises this. In becoming like Christ, we don’t lose our race or identity, but we acknowledge the differences and accept each other as one in Christ. Today, we may no longer have slaves and masters in our midst, but we can think of many things that divide a community. We have the rich and the poor, those from elite schools and neighbourhood schools, Caucasians and Asians, young and old, veterans and new members, men and women etc. The list goes on. Paul’s list is not exhaustive, but we get the drift. If we are in Christ, all these differences are declared null and void! In Christ, there is one God, one faith, and one people.

Someone said that the most divisive time of the week is Sunday when believers around the world gather for worship in their respective denominations, races, languages, age groups, etc. There is still division among believers, and we must continue to work towards the glimpse of heaven given to us in Revelation 7:9-10 where a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language are worshipping God together. Perhaps, we can start with our own worship service welcoming people from all ages, all races, all walks of life because in Christ, we are one. 

As Christ’s redeeming love continues to transform us, may we be conduits of God’s grace as Thomas A Jackson writes in his song:

“We are called to be God’s people
Showing by our lives His grace
One in heart and one in spirit
Sign of hope for all the race
Let us show how He has changed us
And remade us as His own
Let us share our life together
As we shall around His throne”