E Pluribus Unum is the unofficial motto of the United States. The eagle of the Great Seal of the United States holds a banner with that motto in its beak, symbolizing the origin story of the great nation. It means, “out of many, one.” The motto’s authors wanted to represent the concept that 13 independent colonies united to form a single nation without diminishing the distinctive characteristics or autonomies of any of those colonies. As the nation grew, it became apparent that her growth was being fueled, in part, by the arrival of many people from many nations, languages and cultures. E Pluribus Unum became part of America’s larger demographic ethos, even if she didn’t always live it out.
Like America, the church has her E Pluribus Unum ethos as well. You find that ethos in places like Galatians 3:28 where Paul argues that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, and there is neither male nor female. He wasn’t arguing that Greeks, Jews, slaves, freemen, or males and females had lost their distinctives as they assumed their new identities beneath the banner of Christ. That would be absurd, and demonstrably untrue. Instead, he meant that for those who are in Christ, there exists no dividing wall between them (Ephesians 2:14). In fact, he asserts that a shared faith makes them all brothers and sisters in the same family (Galatians 3:26), and that they are united in spirit.
We live in a tribalized world that is divided along countless lines. Principalities, powers, and evil, greedy men often try to divide us along those lines. They stir up conflict, and pit one tribe against another. But followers of Christ should keep in mind that their greatest allegiance is not to any human tribe or faction, but to Christ and his family. When we understand that we share the same spirit, then christian people of all colors, nationalities, backgrounds, cultures, languages, and socioeconomic classes become our siblings. Racism, classism, and all the other isms wash away, and we lose the dividing walls of hostility that rob us of a beautiful peace.
Out of many, we are one in Christ, and because of that our worship can be colorful, beautiful, vibrant, and reflective of a loving, caring, and diverse family.