How would you feel if you only ate one type of salad over and over and over again? Perhaps all you have in your big bowl is a lot of cucumber, or one type of salad leaf, or you only eat gherkins for the rest of your life. After a while you might find that you become tired of the same thing every single day. Life would become pretty bland, wouldn’t it? Perhaps you would long to mix in some other foods and different combinations of things to make your meal more interesting and to experience different flavours in your mouth.
When I make a salad I try to add many ingredients, textures, shapes and colours – things like small chunks of cheese, green and red leaves, fruit, nuts, sultanas, carrots, and so on. I even once added shreds of smoked salmon – delicious! When I share this with others, we all enjoy a nourishing, healthy addition to our main meal. It makes us feel happy, healthy, and full.
I think that our churches and God’s people – the body of Christ – is just like a salad. We are a combination of the old, young, and middle-aged. We have people from different cultural backgrounds, and people who bring various skills, talents, and experiences. Some of the salad ingredients are small, and others are big and bright. Some may be a bit rough or brown around the edges, while others are delicate and fragile. Just like people perhaps?
Imagine if we said that our churches can only include young people, or only old people, only married husbands and wives, only singles, or only people from one socioeconomic background. How fair would that be? And yet, in many of our churches, there appears to be much segregation, especially between the ages and different vocations we have. We tend to separate and may be afraid of mixing with people who we may feel have nothing in common with us.
I do not believe that God wants us to be this way. Certainly, in the secular workplace, age-based discrimination, for example, is not allowed, and yet in our churches we say to the young “you come over here, don’t mix with them”, and to the older ones we say “you’ve had your time, you go over there or leave altogether”. This may not be said explicitly, but our actions may say otherwise.
What would happen if we actively promoted a combination of flavours in our church ‘salad’? That is, that everyone of all ages should mingle together to learn from each other? Or married husbands and wives and families can still associate with single people? Would not our lives be more enriched and well-rounded if we were all united?
When Jesus was lost for three days, his parents found him in the temple among the teachers and elders. Those wise ones were no doubt older than Him. Jesus was not hiding in a corner by Himself or segregated away from them with others of his own age group preaching only to them, or He was not just minding his own business, but He was with everyone openly. In pictures and films of this scene about the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple, we see Him surrounded by all sorts of people – and they were enthralled by Him and His words. Imagine if some of them were sent away because of their age, or background, or based on whether they were single – they would have missed out on experiencing Him.
There is one part of the salad analogy which I have not mentioned yet. This is the key ingredient that makes a salad truly amazing. It is the binding component that brings the whole salad together and makes it pop. This star ingredient is the oil or the dressing. It is the carrier of flavours and zest, and leaves a lasting taste in our mouth. When this special dressing is poured in, we mix it altogether so that everything in our bowl is coated and becomes easier for us to consume.
In our Church, God’s love and the messages of Jesus are carried via the Scripture and the Sacraments (the ‘dressing’). This is the ingredient which needs to ‘coat’ all of us. If everyone is not present together in the church (the ‘bowl’), then some of us miss out.
Look at this ‘salad’ in the temple below – and the people in your churches – and try to see that God wants us to be one, focused on the only ‘ingredient’ that binds us all together: Jesus. If we all look to Him as His unified people and family, we will never be lost.