Here's a question Rich Owen asked me. I've included my answer, but I thought it would be great to get your opinions too. This is the question:
To what extent does the gospel require a homogenisation of personality?
I'm thinking about bearing with one another, rebuking one another, kindness... the hard edge of graciousness and integrity... but gentleness etc. So as a simplistic example...
Person A is really very nice. Wouldn't say boo to a goose, tends to fall in line even if reservations are bubbling in the background - thinking very positively about others, perhaps naively, so is always looking for smooth and non confrontaional paths in dealing with people. It is not always obvious what they think about things because everything is tempered with caveats because they are gentle people in every way not seeking to offend.
Person B is also very nice but is very gritty, calls a spade a spade etc. Doesn't fall in line without having to be persuaded. Thinks very highly of others and so in love calls things pretty black and white - calls sin sin, points right at pride and invites others to be just as direct with them. They think positively about others, but analyse and challenge - likewise not seeking to offend - but knowing how pride works want to expose it directly.
These personality types are partly "considered" in that is what they want to be and think is best, but they also reflect how someone naturally is - some people are more gritty than others etc.
Anyway - that is my already unhelpfully stereotyped situation.
under those maxims of bearing with one another, etc should person B attempt to be more like person A so that person A hears them better? should person A be a bit more bullish so that there is more clarity and person B knows exactly where they are going?
does the gospel require these people to deny self in the sense that they are naturally fluffy or gritty, and as they move towards the other, modify personality to be more like each other... a homogenisation?
Here's my answer:
I wrote a series of posts on personality, idols, repentance, gifts, service, maturity etc here, here, here and here.
Basically I think there are four elements to consider:
1) God-given temperament. The triune God loves diversity. When humans make ice we make ice cubes, when the Father makes ice He makes snowflakes and all that,
2) Idolatry which takes hold of our natural differences and creates idols that we serve and imitate (this is an all-pervasive part of 'personality'). For instance, the world, flesh and devil take hold of a person with an above average IQ to make them worship and serve their brain, or intelligence in general, or being right or knowledgeable or whatever.
3) In Christ there is repentance for this idolatry which will mean acting against type. 2) means that a naturally sweet disposition will in some large part arise from flesh-dynamics that simply want to justify self, protect from relational pain, pursue some idol of 'niceness'. Such a sweet person's repentance will involve assertiveness, standing up for truth etc while the bruque person's repentance will involve the reverse.
4) In Christ there is spiritual gifting which will very often redeem those God-given temperaments from 1). The same Spirit through Whom I was made is the Spirit who gifts me in Christ. He gifts me and gives me to the body of Christ in my distinctness to be a member of this diverse church.
1) and 4) are the pre-redemption and post-redemption celebrations of diversity. I think the last thing God wants is homogeneity. The devil through the idolatry of 2) shoves us into some very bland temperamental boxes. In this sense homogenisation is satanic. Dan Allender talks about how a woman's flesh-dynamics lead her really only to three basic categories: good girl, party girl and tough girl. There's a billion ways of being a woman if we live out our identity in Christ, there's only a few very narrow ones if we don't.
So yes broadly speaking I think repentance will look different for different people. (e.g. party girl should take responsibility, good girl should let go, tough girl should sweeten up.) But that's not because there's some 'average girl' in the middle that Christ is shepherding womankind towards! Following Christ will mean expressing our God-given, Spirit-redeemed diversity not squishing us into some homogenous mould.
Some follow-up questions to consider:
- If the gospel doesn't create homogenous personalities then why do our churches, not to mention our ministry training bodies, churn them out??
- Why is 'being nice' the bland medium that defines so much of our Christianity??
- Is there space for confrontation in our homogenized churches??