I recently watched the film Divergent, the first in a trilogy series based on a popular novel series by the same name. I was intrigued after watching the movie and decided to read the book, which was also very good.
In this story, there is some kind of disaster that requires the survivors to essentially restart society. (I’ve only read the first book, so I don’t know any more detail than that. I hope it is further revealed as the books progress.) The story of Divergent picks up at what seems to be many years after the disaster in the city of Chicago. Much of the city is in ruins, and the people have organized themselves into “factions”.
Each faction emphasizes a particular quality over and above all others.
There are five factions. One emphasizes selflessness, another bravery, another peace, a fourth emphasizes knowledge, and lastly truth.
Children are raised in the faction of their families, but when they turn sixteen, they take a test (a virtual reality type hallucination) that reveals their true faction by judging their strongest trait from their decisions during the test. They are still able to choose any faction, but most follow the faction they grew up in, which is usually confirmed in the test.
The original idea of the factions, of course was to support each other and provide balance in the new society. However, the factions become jealous of each other, primarily because the selfless faction was given control of the government.
It is interesting to me how this scenario compares with our Christian landscape today. We have so many factions, each emphasizing a particular aspect of our life in Christ. Some focus on knowledge, others focus on good works for the poor and oppressed, some focus on spiritual gifts, others focus on non-violence, while yet others focus on strictly obeying the law. And then there are sub-factions to the factions.
And the lines are drawn.
Separated, we understand very little of each other. Subcultures develop that are completely foreign to each other, so much that people become too uncomfortable to reach out across the not-so-imaginary lines.
Enter the Divergent.
The Divergent have no faction.
The heroin of the Divergent series is a young girl whose faction test results are inconclusive. Her reactions to the simulation indicate multiple faction possibilities because she draws from various characteristics to respond to the test.
Being divergent is dangerous because any one faction cannot control them. Their brains simply resist the conditioning (“initiation”) that is meant to teach them the strict boundaries and role of their faction.
The Divergent are rare and are terminated when discovered because they challenge the system that controls them, and people with power do not like to be challenged.
The Apostle Paul spoke of factions in the church:
Divisions in the Church
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
(1 Corinthians 1:10-17 ESV)
Paul reprimands the Corinthian believers who have lost their focus on Jesus Christ as the one true Head of the church and he calls them to be united together.
Surely, this is a hard road.
Getting along with folks that are wildly different from us is not easy.
Taking in other people’s viewpoints and adjusting our own is not easy.
Yielding to others is not easy.
At least, not in our own power. But when we yield to Christ in all things, His life in us is manifested, we are made new, and we are able to do new things.
We are able to be united in Him. We are able to lay down differences and seek and explore Him together, learning from each other, valuing each other, desiring each other, caring for each other, encouraging each other, and embracing and drawing strength from our divergence rather than being afraid of it.
Yes, there will still be arguments and disagreements and hurt feelings. But if you really stick it out together and hold to Christ, something new and precious will be deposited in His new city.
I have been in gatherings where the life of Christ is richly expressed through many different lenses, and the vision of Christ that results is breathtaking.
I am convinced that isolating ourselves into countless factions over countless issues is not the way of Christ.
Christ is always divergent from the flesh and towards the divine.
Perhaps it is time for the church to embrace the Divergent.
Follow the Life!
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