At the core of this tension of unity, diversity, uniqueness, sameness, is identity. Identity is something that doesn’t get talked about much in the regular, day-to-day life we experience, but it is what we draw from in order to make decisions every day. Our identity, who we are, is inextricably intertwined with what we do.
All Together Different, by J. Brian Tucker & John Koessler, is a step in the right direction for pastors from all denominations, races, and cultural contexts understanding the power of identity, unity, and diversity. Why? I think this quote accurately sums up the reality we face as pastors, and the reality of what it is to shepherd a congregation in 2018: “We believe that being in Christ must consistently be in the top position in the [identity] hierarchy in order to inform and direct different identity performances… pay attention to the circumstances or the various aspects of the person that might be contributing to the formation or deformation of their Christian identity.” (p. 72).
The truth is, we either grow to become more like Christ or less like Christ, depending on what kind of core identity we live out. Though I have the identities of father, husband, son, friend, pastor, church member, man, none of these should be the only identity I live out. At different times I live out different aspects of my identity, which is the identity hierarchy the authors mention. However, if I choose to live out of one identity over and above my identity as being in Christ, something will go wrong. We see this kind of thing every day, and (too often) experience it in our own lives.
The world we live in carries so many distinctions and labels of people it quickly becomes impossible to catch up. However, as important as aspects of identity are (such as family background, ethnicity, country of origin, occupation), these have been reprioritized for the follower of Christ. How can we actually live all together different? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
The short answer is we can only live all together different through the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. That is most clearly seen when reprioritize our identities and realize that every identity marker is second to that of our master identity of being in Christ.