In the books, the world is divided into several factions. Each faction is ruled by its own wonderful but narrow set of values: knowledge, peace, bravery, self-forgetfulness, and truth. As people reach a certain age, they choose a preference—a natural preference for which they are tested and proved. Each group believes that its values will make the world a better place.
As I read the first two books, I was reminded of life in the Church. Each of us has our natural preferences for service and sin. Usually, we judge others by those preferences. Administrators struggle with creative types, and vice versa. Mercy-minded folks don’t always understand why teachers spend so much time reading and studying. And teachers don’t always identify with visionaries. I could go on.
There are some who find moral excellence and self-discipline easier, but they probably aren’t full of much compassion or mercy and are prone to self-righteousness. A bold sinner makes a better forgiver, especially when he knows he’s forgiven. Still, a bold sinner will struggle with guilt and shame—not to mention various vices. He will also find himself judging the judger—isn’t that funny.
We’ve all witnessed extremities within the Church. There are ritual followers and ritual haters. Free-spirited worshipers can barely stand the quieter preferences of high-church models, and liturgical sects mock the non-liturgical ones.
We’ve lived in multiple states and have been members of many different churches including Episcopalian, Lutheran, Assemblies of God, and Presbyterian. Within each I’ve found true worshipers and unrepentant sinners. And all true worshipers are also sinners—no matter what church they belong to.
In the Divergent series, the heroes are the ones who can begin to see the world through others’ eyes. They can see the benefits of knowledge with compassion. They understand that bravery or knowledge, when used against others because they are different, becomes corruption. Even self-forgetfulness (a valued quality for believers), becomes complacency if it isn’t mixed with courage and truth.
As believers, we are called to be more than who we are—we are called to be divergent. One of the definitions of divergent is developing in a different direction—and as Christians we develop in a direction that is different from the world.
The other definition is a mathematical term that means, increasing indefinitely as more of its terms are added. I like that.
Each person trusting in Christ is more than the sum of himself. When Christ’s virtues are added to us by grace, we are exponentially more. And Christ adds virtues indefinitely.
By our own resources and ourselves we are the narrow-minded possessor of our own righteousness and gifts, which we guard tenaciously. But in Christ we are the bold lovers of the Body of Christ—in all its wild weird wonder, gifts, shapes, and sizes.
We are divergent.