One of the great challenges facing Christ’s early church was overcoming the natural and centuries old divisions between Jews and Gentiles. After Peter received the revelation that Gentiles had as much right to join the Church as did Jews, the stage was set for conflict. As the Apostle Paul was the foremost missionary to the Gentile nations, we see this division through his eyes.
Christian congregations in Corinth, Thessalonica, Galatia, and Rome all struggled to create a sustainable atmosphere of unity. But in Ephesus, the strains caused by this difficult division seemed most prominent. To combat this schism, Paul wrote:
This doctrine of unity is extremely important to each of us as we are all part of a ward community. We all come to this community from different backgrounds. We all have different personalities. While we may have the church in common, we still have fundamental differences in how we feel our religion should be practiced. This is normal.
Yet in spite of these differences, we all have one thing in common. We all need each other.
The problem with friendship in a singles ward is that there is a pervasive feeling that any attempt at friendship between the men and women is simply a prelude to marriage. I want to make it clear that I view this cultural constraint on friendship to be abhorrent. So much so that I think this oppressive pressure to marry is one of the greatest obstacles to the sense of community we all need to be fellow citizens with the saints.
My goal for this ward is simple. I hope that each member in this ward could go to any apartment or spend time with any ward member and feel sincerely accepted and cared for.
Yes, we do have this in abundance. But we can do better. How can we breakdown the remaining walls that make some of us feel like strangers and foreigners and live by Paul’s vision of each of us being fellow citizens with the saints?
While I do have suggestions, and I have stated them in previous blog posts, I am asking each apartment to come together over this weekend and discuss small and simple things you can do to foster greater unity. Look for small and simple things that can help expand your established circle of friends to include all ward members.
The key to remember is that friendships are more valued when they are sincere and not burdened with hidden agendas.