Living together

many colored pastel crayonsThe early 20th century German writer, philosopher and Christian theologian Eberhard Arnold, wrote these word about the way God works in the world:

“God does not work by only one method, paint in only one color, play in only one key, nor does He make only one star shine onto the earth. God’s mystery is the rich spectrum of color that is gathered together in the purity of the sun’s white light. The symphonic harmony of all the stars is built up on precisely their manifold variety. But all this is gathered together and will be gathered together at the end of time in the unity of the Kingdom of God.” *

We – you and I — are part of that great symphony of diversity that God has created and is drawing together. In the great sweep of that design, I believe there are reasons we are each here – first, in our individuality, just to delight the heart of God, who is immensely and forever creative and creating; but then, also to call us into the stretching of the heart beyond ourselves, coming together in community, that is the way of love.

It’s harder than it sounds, of course, living with such great diversity as we collectively embody. As individuals we rub up against each other’s impulses and desires, preferences and viewpoints, interpretations and judgments. It can be alternately maddening, disappointing, or disheartening when our desires are thwarted or our claims to greatness challenged — or it can be thrilling (as in sexual joy), uplifting and enriching (as we discover new things through new eyes), or healing (when we receive the blessing of being loved and valued by others).

Sadly, though, instead of cherishing each other we learn early in life to separate ourselves principally by judging and thinking in terms of right or wrong, black or white, good or bad. Yet much of life is not amenable to such simplistic judgments. Much of life is this and that – black and white, and every shade in between. As we live our lives, whether we realize it or not, we’re engaged in a symphonic, not a solo performance. Or to use a different metaphor, we’re being knit into a tapestry of many colors and weaves, not a monochrome plain fabric with only one design.

In this life we’re brought together to participate in something larger than our tiny selves, which makes us both less and more important than we like to think.  The task before us is to learn to appreciate others as adding something to our lives rather than taking something away, and to respect and rejoice in our differences as the great gift they are.

ani11-620x boy and lionThe psalmist said, “How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Holy Bible, Psalm 133:1). Maybe you’ve had fleeting experiences of such unity. I have, and there is almost nothing better! Holding together while preserving and cherishing our diversity is worth working for, even sacrificing for. In fact, I believe it is the deep desire of the Holy One for the creatures he has made.

Grace and peace to you all. May we have ears to hear the symphony and eyes to see and appreciate the patchwork quilt of beauty that we are!




* Eberhard Arnold: A Testimony of Church-Community from His Life and Writings, by The Plough Publishing House (1964)

Author: Linda Robinson

Writer, Christian contemplative, concerned citizen.