Unity, Not Uniformity
Lisa Cooke

Unity & UniformityMarriage is the unique opportunity for two people to become one flesh, as Mark 10:7 puts it, quoting Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Becoming one flesh is a lifelong process between two individuals, particularly for two independent individuals. Many marriage counseling sessions are devoted to the issues marriage partners have as they strive to become one flesh.

But does that mean two people have to become the same person? A clone of one another? Wouldn’t that be an unnecessary duplication? I don’t believe that this is what becoming one flesh is supposed to mean. Early in our marriage, Tony and I struggled with what becoming one flesh meant in our relationship. Tony often shares that he thought if he could make me like him, all our issues would be solved. Of course, that didn’t work and we had to learn how to be in union without uniformity.

Since the beginning, ministry has always been a very big part of our lives together. In this arena we experienced much diversity in our approach in serving others for the Lord. One example is how we greeted people at the church doors, which was part of our job description as assistant pastors. Tony felt like he needed to connect with as many people as possible, while I would get involved talking with a few people at length. This would cause problems as I would hold up the “flow of traffic” and Tony found himself frustrated with my approach to connecting with people.

We solved this problem very simply, not by me changing to match Tony’s style, but by standing on opposite sides of the door. This way I could go at my speed and Tony could go at his speed without either one of us giving up our values, or our preferred method of interacting with people. This is an example of unity without uniformity, and it worked beautifully for us. We were both greeting people, but doing so from our own individual styles.

Tony and I are also very different in our giftings. Tony is very gifted as a speaker, as a teacher to adults. I love to minister through music. The most fun I’ve ever had in ministry was when I was involved with leading children in worship. Tony is not musical at all, yet we are both united in our passion for serving God through ministry. I do not have to be a pulpit minister to be considered one flesh with Tony, and likewise he doesn’t have to be involved in music ministry to be one with me. We give each other the grace to be ourselves as God created us in the single focus of reaching others for Christ. A person is much more likely to enjoy serving the Body of Christ if they feel like they “fit” in that service opportunity.

This applies to other areas of our lives as well, not just in our ministry life together. When it comes to leisure, I enjoy going hiking in the mountains while Tony enjoys visiting the Biblical sites and ruins in Europe and Asia. We choose to do these activities with each other, even though it may not be our preference, and this has been one way of developing an attitude of unity within our relationship.

It’s important to respect each other’s differences as you grow into becoming one flesh. Love respects the other person, who they are, and the specific giftings that God has placed within them. Love will encourage the individuality of each spouse without being threatened by the inherent differences. With love, there is some flex involved, some give and take. Becoming one flesh is the combining of these facets of both persons into a beautiful composite that reflects God’s purpose for marriage, a unity without uniformity.