They tell us that every snowflake is different.
How exactly one might go about proving this is hard to say, since proving such a negative is humanly impossible, but nevertheless, we must admit that nobody has ever found two snowflakes that are identical and that within the myriad number of snowflakes contained in this universe, there is a wondrous amount of diversification.
This is truly remarkable when you consider that every snowflake follows the exact same rules of creation and each snowflake is comprised of the exact same basic ingredients in the same proportion. Snow, being made of water, is comprised of two hydrogen atoms for every oxygen atom, and these atoms bond together in the same way in every water molecule. Likewise, when water freezes, no matter where it is in the world, it operates under the same physical laws as every other water molecule that freezes. Sometimes this produces blocks of ice; sometimes it produces snowflakes; but water freezes according to the preset laws laid down by the Divine Creator, everywhere and every time. And despite this uniformity of content and behavior, every snowflake ends up being beautiful and unique.
People often don’t like the idea that God has a pattern, or a law, for them to follow. These individuals chaff at the idea of “commands and precepts.” Even in theological circles, there is in some quarters a disdain for the idea of a “pattern theology.” “It’s not about rules,” they will say, “it’s about grace.”
Culturally, there is a great deal of pushback against the idea of conformity. “Rules are made to be broken,” is adopted as a mantra. The individual and individualism reign supreme. Agreeing to disagree is regarded as a high philosophical achievement and equivocation between disparate ideas and behaviors is commonplace. Conformity is perceived to be boring and stodgy.
The honest student of God’s word, however, can hardly fail to notice the emphasis placed within on obedience to commands, conformity of doctrine, and the necessity of following God’s pattern for life, for worship, and for salvation.
It was God who gave Noah a detailed blueprint of how to build an ark (Genesis 6:14-16) It was God who repeatedly told Moses to build everything in the tabernacle according to a pattern. (eg. Exodus 25:9, 40, 26:30) It was God who instructed His people not deviate from His precepts, either to the right or to the left. (Deuteronomy 5:32; cf. Proverbs 30:5-6).
Nor is this a thing unique to the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus told His disciples to teach men all the things He had commanded of them (Matthew 28:20). The apostle Paul reminded Timothy of the pattern of the doctrine of Christ, saying, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13; ESV)
Concerning conformity, the church at Corinth was divinely cautioned that they needed to be of the same mind, all speaking the same things. (1 Corinthians 1:10) There was not one Gospel given for one man, and another to a different man, but rather as we read, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:4-6a; NKJV)
Each Christian is called to the same salvation, through the same plan, and is expected to produce the same sort of fruit (cf. Galatians 5:22-23) We are all, in Christ, put together with the same sort of ingredients, and we all need to follow the same pattern and laws.
Those who don’t know better assume that such a situation must be pretty boring: plain and uninteresting, with every Christian exactly like every other Christian. But that couldn’t be further from the case. The same God that could use two ingredients and a handful of physical laws to produce a nigh-infinite variety of snowflakes can do so much more with man, the pinnacle of His creation. There is great beauty to be found in the righteousness of Christ, and wondrous variety. No two Christians are ever going to be exactly alike, and yet we are each, if we will let Him work in us, molded and fashioned in the perfect image of Christ.
The church of Christ encourages you to submit yourself to God’s guiding hand and see what beauty His pattern and laws produce in you. We invite you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.