All Saints United
When I was 15, one of my best friends moved abroad. A year later, he came back to visit, and explained some things he had experienced that I will never forget. One of the things I remember him saying was that his new home had been billed as a ‘melting pot’ of different types of people but, with great disappointment, he told me it was more like a ‘tossed salad’.
You can checkout the sermon that accompanies this blog post here.
I have thought about this analogy many times, and my conclusion is that neither the melting pot nor the tossed salad can be considered an adequate metaphor for ‘unity in diversity’. The melting pot is where distinctive ingredients come together, blend and combine qualities to make one flavour. The problem with the melting pot analogy is that when the ingredients blend together, they lose their distinctiveness. Once the dish reaches a required flavour, any new additions either enhance that particular flavour, or risk totally transforming the whole dish.
For instance, if the dish was a lemon meringue, there would be no welcome for paprika or garlic. I imagine they would only be accepted once they came back a little ‘sweeter’, or more ‘citrussy’. The melting pot, although it looks like unity, represents one of the greatest threats to unity: uniformity. A community where people are only welcome if they speak the lingo, support the status quo, and act the same, is not unified. It is uniformed. Uniformity is a cheap imitation of unity, and an enemy to authentic community.
The tossed salad analogy, in comparison, is a much more obvious threat to unity. Each element of the salad is distinctively different, but also separate from the others. There is no particular amalgamation of flavours, and therefore, with a bit of care, we could separate the leaves from the beans and tomatoes, and get right back where we started without any real pain. The tossed salad is as much divided as it is together.
There are two elements to unity. First, the recognition of what makes us distinctive, one from another. Second, the commitment to deliberately overlapping, blending and combining those differences to make up one entity that is both many, and one, at the same time.
This is why the ‘body metaphor’ that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians is so powerful. For instance, the hand is clearly very different from the shoulder. However, both combine with many other different elements to make the arm. This is an amazing picture of true ‘oneness’, in a world of numerous ‘manys’.
Our issue is the same as the Corinthian church’s: unity is ridiculously costly. It would be much more straightforward if we spent our time with those we considered similar to us. As Pastor Richard Vincent writes, ‘who has to work hard at loving those like themselves?’ Hence the old adage, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’, which is why Vincent also writes that ‘For Paul, the greatest sign of the Spirit’s presence is love for others different from one’s self.’ So, true unity requires a lot of us, but is equally the work of the Holy Spirit. And true unity is our only option if we want to continue to grow into a healthy, functioning body, with Christ as our head.
May we continue to submit, one to another, and to our heavenly father, that we might be prepared to break down that which divides us, with cooperation with the Holy Spirit, and for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.