I have a friend who was raised on a dairy farm. He knows what real milk is. And he will tell you that, the white liquid in the cardboard cartons and plastic jugs at the supermarket – even the variety labeled “whole milk” – isn’t really milk. It is a watered down, mass produced product that, to him, is closer to cloudy water than true, honest-to-goodness, straight from Elsie’s udder, milk.
I was not raised on a dairy farm. All I’ve ever known is store bought milk. (I once mistook buttermilk for 2%. I’ll never make that mistake again!). I couldn’t tell you what it’s like to grow up drinking the real thing. Only the same old, store bought stuff almost every American pours on his / her morning cereal.
Just like everyone else.
The milk we drink is homogenized. The natural tendency for milk is for the cream and liquid to separate. Homogenization takes these unique properties and blends them together as one. The cream no longer rises to the top.
Why is it that so many Christians expect believers do be subjected to a process of homogenization? True, we are not called to look like this world we currently live in. We are in this world, but not of it. Strangers in a strange land.
But that doesn’t mean we are called to all look the same, sound the same, act the same. My heart aches for those who feel marginalized and us accepted by the church because they don’t fit some imaginary social mold.
Jesus hung out with the outcasts, dined with the downcast. He wasn’t part of the religious elite (indeed He stood squarely against what they stood for: legalism, exclusivity, etc…). Jesus loved (loves) people for who they are, not what they have to bring to the table. We are called to be obedient, but obedience does not equal homogenous.
One of the great reflections of God is that we – His children – are each made in His image and yet each of us is created individually unique. Of the trillions of humans who exist, or ever have, or ever will, no two are, have been, or will ever be, exactly the same. Why do you think it is such a shock when you run into someone’s doppelgänger? “They were your splitting image! You could be twins!” We don’t expect it because we realize how different and individual every person is.
A true community is a group of people who come together with a common goal, a shared running thread that knits them together. For Christians that thread must be Christ. It must be love. It must be agape love! care and support! for one another. It goes beyond being merely social to something deeper – a shared goal to be God’s hands and feet, to reach out and never ever ever be exclusive or walled off. A community should be tightly knit, but not so knotted that new strings cannot be added.
Likewise, a community should be people who are individuals. It is okay to not fit “the norm”. Where is the freedom when one is expected to look and act and sound just like everyone else? We are not Stepford Christians. We are individuals, created by our Father God, saved by the blood of His Son Jesus, indwelled by the same Holy Spirit. We are all different parts of the same body, called to work together in our individual capacities as a whole. A car will never run if it is built from NLT carburetors. A body will not function if it is only muscles. Someone has to be the spleen.
Homogenization is fine for mass produced dairy products. We are not mass produced. We are not product. We are individuals who need a savior, who need Jesus. And, frankly, who need one another.
No wonder so many non-believers think church people are fake. Be yourself. Be who God, in a his far more infinite wisdom, created you to be. Be humble. Be vulnerable. Be loving and kind. And do not accept the critics who do not like your refusal to homogenize.
Pray. Go. Do. Follow Christ and please Him only.