“Oh, you’re a Christian?”
“Huh. I wouldn’t have guessed that you’re a Christian.”
“You are a Christian, right?”
The types of Christians we grow up with, are accustomed to seeing, or have been taught about subconsciously inform our individual perceptions of Christianity. But what does a Christian look like? What does a Christian sound like? How should a Christian think? These questions have no single answer because Christianity allows for diversity. Christians throughout the world experience their faith in vastly different ways and seek God within different cultural and political contexts. Christian Sidak, in “Who Are the Middle Eastern Christians?”, reveals to readers details about the lives of a Christian minority about which the average Westerner is uninformed or unaware. Diversity is alive and well, too, in the smaller Christian community that exists on Harvard’s campus. Denomination and language (as in the case of Spanish-speaking Catholics on campus) offer other milieus that impact the way we meet God.
With this diversity, Christians are of one body and mind that is unified by Christ — He is the foundation of Christian identity. While none can ever be Christ, we all strive to be like Him: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Pet 2:21, ESV). We pursue the virtues of Jesus which can present themselves in different ways as the Spirit flourishes beneath and shines through our unique personalities, experiences, and societies. And this diversity is worth rejoicing! No one Christian is more special, or more ‘Christian’, than another – our individual attributes do not motivate God’s unfathomable love for us. As Teal McGarvey and Nick Nowalk write in The Peculiar Shape of Christian Identity, “We are not loved because we are lovely. We are lovely because we are loved by Him.” Therefore, within the family of God, we are free to be different, and the Lord loves our diversity. He created it.
While this diversity, among Christians and among human beings, is beautiful and seemingly ever-present, our individual awareness of it is not always constant. The vast scope of it is difficult for any one individual to fully comprehend. As humans, we struggle to continuously and actively love and acknowledge diversity everywhere, and the body of Christ is no exception. Christians should remind themselves that the way individual believers experience their faith isn’t the only way God’s people can encounter Him. It is simply the way that believer knows: a path that is colored by their experiences and relationships. What believers seek to learn about, and from, are the paths of others: the experiences of those in the Christian community and beyond. This might involve participating in neighborhood/campus Bible studies, reading books of Christian thought, and simply listening. By no means is this an exhaustive list, and new ways to strengthen the body of believers, on the individual and community levels, continue to present themselves. Likewise, there are many ways people in general, regardless of religious belief or nonbelief, can respect identity while learning from each other. We must take advantage of our differences in upbringing, education, opinion, etc. and use them to love one another, serve one another, and celebrate our unique qualities.
For Christians, these differences exist with their foundation in the Lord. “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” (Mal 2:10, ESV).
“Are you Christian? So am I! How . . . ? ”
Ikeoluwa Adeyemi-Idowu ’19 is a Sociology concentrator in Lowell House.