I love autumn. I love it when the weather starts getting cooler, and I can start wearing boots and long sleeve shirts and sweaters and sweatshirts. I love watching college football on Saturday mornings (yes, I know that college football now starts during the summer, but I like it best during the fall). I love having a fire in the fireplace, especially at night when the only light comes from the fire itself.
But, most of all, I love watching the leaves change colors. Here in North Carolina, autumn is especially beautiful. My drive to work each morning and back home each afternoon is very calming and soothing and a joy for the eyes. Yesterday morning, as I was driving to work, I saw a patch of three or four trees, all of which had bright yellow leaves. It seemed as if the sun was shining only on those trees, but in reality, the yellow leaves simply stood out vividly among the browns, reds, and greens of the surrounding trees. From my office window at work, I can look out in the distance and see a large tree with bright orange leaves that stands out clearly against the trees behind it.
As I have been thinking about these leaves, I realize that it is not simply the vividness of the individual colors that makes the scene so beautifully. I mean, yes, the yellow leaves beside the road, or the orange leaves out the window, or the bright red leaves – another favorite – of some trees stand out. But, these colors only stand out because they are surrounded by other colors – colors that may not be as bright, but are important nonetheless. In fact, I think these other leaves actually make the vivid leaves more beautiful.
Consider, for instance, seeing a patch of trees all of which have the same color leaves, with no other colors around them. Perhaps all the leaves are yellow, all the leaves are red, all the leaves are orange. Would this be beautiful? Yes, but there would be something missing. There is beauty in the vivid colors themselves, but that beauty is enhanced by the contrast of the leaves of other colors, much as the sound of one instrument is enhanced when it is part of an orchestra.
As I was thinking about autumn colors, I was reminded how this resembles the church. The church is made of a myriad of people with different perspectives, different emphases, different voices, different gifts, but all from God. In fact, God places the people together in the manner that pleases him. If God has placed us together, then we should take the time to observe and listen to each other.
There are certain voices that I like to hear. There are certain types of service that I like to participate in. There are certain emphases and preferences that I share. But, if I only listen to and respond to those who share my concerns and preferences and likes, then I am missing the beauty of the church – much like I would miss the beauty of the autumn colors if all of the trees of the forest had yellow leaves.
There are some within the church who prefer to focus on evangelism – I need to hear from these people. There are others within the church who would rather emphasize the sovereignty of God – I need to hear their voices also. Some other people in the church usually discuss serving others – I need to hear what they have to say. Still others within the church consistently speak of community – I need to hear them.
Like a forest in autumn with a myriad of colors, or an orchestra with many different instruments all playing together, God has placed people in my life and in your life because we need to hear them and they need to hear us. We need one another. Take the time today to notice the many different colors in the trees around you. Then ask yourself, “Am I listening to the different voices, or am I only listening to the voices who are saying the same things that I say?”