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Ascending into Unity

I haven’t lived in too many places in my life—started out in Cheboygan, Michigan and ended up making Columbus, Ohio my home. With the exception of three years in North Central Ohio, that’s been about it. It was in Columbus, then, that I found the perfect residence, and I’ve lived there ever since. It’s a special place, peaceful and secure as advertised, but what makes it unique is the neighbors—they’re amazing. Let me tell you about them.

Where I live, you will find liberals, conservatives, progressives, socialists and even communists. In this place, I’ve met several people from Africa, Asia, the U.S., of course, and if I can just get out more, I know I’ll meet denizens from other continents, too. People from an impressive array of religious backgrounds—Catholics, Protestants, Sikhs, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews—have departed from their points of origin and made this their home. Could there possibly be more diversity in one spot? Yet, despite our countless differences, we just love living here, and I’m quite certain none of us are inclined to move away. Ever.

Where is this place? Perhaps by now you’ve figured it out. We live in Christ. “Abide in me,”1 Jesus said, and from a demographic matrix of inestimable dimension, people have traveled countless life highways to this eternal Abode, dropped their bags and called Him, “home.” Then after a while, we all discover with wide-eyed wonder the same thing: in Christ, diversity ascends into unity. “There is one body and one Spirit … one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”2 Thus united, we go forward as the body of Christ, individually gifted and corporately bound in the Spirit of peace, together thriving in singularity of purpose—to bring glory to God.

There are many in this world who—through a cynical or perhaps naïve regard for diversity—would exploit people’s differences and pit us against each other toward destruction. And it is easy to allow our divergent views on earthly issues to distract us from the oneness we share in Christ and the work He calls us to do together. Could there be a more diabolical distortion of God’s design? God did not create our differences so as to divide us; rather, He honors the uniqueness of each of us as He builds us into something greater than all of us. Wrote Paul, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it,”3

So, let us resist the temptations that would divide and dissuade us and, instead, remember who we are—the body of Christ—and where we live, in Him. Each of us is in this with all of us.

Father, in your unsearchable wisdom, you made us different, not to divide all of us but to honor each of us as we take our place in the body of Christ. Grace us to value each other as you do and to unite as one Church in Him. In His name, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is peace.

1 John 15:4
2 Ephesians 4:4-7
3 1 Corinthians 12:27

Read today’s Scripture in Ephesians 4:1-16.

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Welcome! Please come in.

It was on our way home from an open house when Peggy and I decided to become involved in International Friendships (IFI), for we had just celebrated its fruit—the baptism of a student, a PhD candidate from China now attending Ohio State. His humble happiness was infectious, and his joy in Jesus stirred our souls to action. Over the eight years since then, we have hosted 20 students in our home for two or three nights while they navigate a culture shock half way around the world from home, and we’ve treasured these relationships as they’ve matured into friendships.

IFI was started in 1979 by a Columbus, Ohio pastor who noticed the increasing number of OSU students here from other lands—the world was coming to our doorstep. With great foresight, he realized that reaching these young men and women with the gospel would not only birth new spiritual life in them, it would also, in turn, ripple through their communities and countries when they returned home with great news of full and forever life in Christ Jesus. IFI now operates in 30 U.S. colleges and universities, and Rich Mendola, its executive director since 1994, estimates that, over the years, students from 50 countries have received Christ as their Savior and/or grown in their Christian faith here.

But there’s another blessing, somewhat hidden in this ministry: IFI provides ample opportunities for believers who want to reach out and connect with others for Jesus but just don’t know how. Are you are called to small but significant act of service? Then you can share the love of Christ by picking up students from the airport and taking them to where they will be staying or even take them shopping for student-essentials. Is teaching your gift? Then come and participate in Friday night IFI Bible studies. Are you the helping or encouraging kind? Being an English-speaking partner is an easy way to form new friendships over coffee and conversation.

The world has come to America, friends; all we have to do is show up and welcome it with giving hearts. God takes it from there.

Father, thank you for the joy of life in Christ. Please use me to share His love with the people I will encounter today, no matter who they are or where they come from. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is life.

[Read today’s Scripture in Romans 15:15-21.]