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The Great Incompatibility

Jesus is interested in the oddest things.

In every nook and corner or our lives, we are encouraged to pursue the compatible. We are told to find friends who are compatible with our interests, a job that is compatible with our gifts, a church that is compatible with our theology, and a spouse who is compatible all around! There is surely something wise in this. God wants us to enjoy his creation, and common sense suggests that we enjoy life more with compatible people in compatible settings.

At the risk of sounding like the Grinch, though, we are wise to think more deeply about why we're so enthralled with compatibility, for the Bible seems to suggest that compatibility is not always what it's cracked up to be.

As I noted: On the one hand, it is truly a good and blessed thing when people "dwell in compatibility," when they share interests, opinions, likes, and dislikes. On the other hand, to spend most of one's life with those who are compatible is to spend most of one's life in front of a mirror. We like people with whom we are compatible because we like people who are like us. We may think we are loving the compatible other when we are simply feeling good about them loving us. Compatibility can become a gazing on our own reflection, as in the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus.

The careful reader will have noticed that I fractured a biblical verse above. The biblical notion is that it is a blessed thing when men and women "dwell in unity" (Ps. 133:1). This is different than dwelling in compatibility, though we often mistake the latter for the former. Unity is in some ways the foil of compatibility. The greater the incompatibility, the more blessed, the more miraculous the unity. Unity can probe the deep mystery of love in a way that mere compatibility cannot. This is ...

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SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today and author, most recently, of Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals.
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