By Anthony Gammage
Diversity. It seems to be the word of the day in our modern, global culture. It arises in standoffs in Ferguson, Refugee crises, and tragedies in Charleston; is made visible in our presidential candidates; and even in our own denomination, it will be a major overture at our General Assembly in June. In recent months, we too, as a staff team, have been wrestling through the idea of diversity as we’ve seen the age, color, and socio-economic makeup shift at NLD. Diversity is essentially a concept that encompasses acceptance and respect for individual and cultural differences. Unfortunately, our sin nature tempts us to look at those who are different than us as being inferior. The pride and individualism of our day woos us to think that we are better than the rest of the world, or at least the rest of our block.
So how does the Bible call us to look at diversity? Is it simply a modern nuance, or should we, as Christians be pursuing diversity as well? Below are many passages of Scripture that will serve as a starting point in the conversation on diversity.
- The Big Picture – From the book of Genesis, God’s plan was to reconcile the whole world. 12:1-3 makes it clear that that God chose Abraham to bless the nations, and this is only concluded when we see every tribe, tongue and nation worshipping King Jesus (Rev. 7:9-10). Quite a diverse scene. See also 2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 72:17; Is. 2:2-4; 56:6-8; Zech. 8:20-23; Matt. 26:28; 28:19; Acts 1:8.
- The Nature of the Gospel – The nature of the Gospel is that Jesus, who was God, moved toward those of us who were very “ungodlike” to save the very ones who beat Him, humiliated Him, and killed Him on the cross. See Phil. 2:1-11; Jn. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:4-5; 1 Jn. 4:18-21. The Gospel also levels the playing field so that there is no dividing line to be hostile over. 2:11-16; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11.
- The Nature of the Church – God, in His divine wisdom, made the church, the Bride of Christ, such that it has to be diverse to function properly. 1 Cor. 12:21-26; Eph 3:10. For practical examples see Acts 13:1 (cultural diversity), Philemon; 1 Cor. 7:12-24 (vocational diversity), Jas. 2:1-9 (socio-economic diversity), Titus 2; 1 Tim. 4:12; ch 5 (generational diversity), and 1 Cor. 7 (marital diversity).
The bottom line for us is that I believe the Bible not only embraces diversity, but calls us, as the church, to proactively move into it! With all of this being said, not every expression of diversity and cultural acceptance is helpful, and we must be wary of calling something “diversity” that is actually sin, or something that is opposed to God and His Word. The chief areas to be concerned with here in our day are things like same-sex marriage. In saying that, that doesn’t mean we are unloving, but we are saying we cannot value, respect, and welcome sin as we do things like cultural diversity.
So how do we move toward those who are different than we are? Theologically, the only place we can start is the Gospel. Again, the very nature is that God Himself moved toward us, vile rebels and His enemies. Only when we see the beauty of that will be move toward others. Practically, check out Ken Sande’s material on others-awareness and empathy for starters.
May God have mercy as we try to move toward others!