Do We Need Diversity in the Church?

“Diversity” is a big word in the Church today, just as it is in the world. Though the word “diversity” is not found in the Bible, the idea is there. However, the Bible’s idea of diversity and the world’s idea have some profound differences. Here are some definitions of “diversity” I found from a quick search on Google. Let’s compare the way the world views diversity to how God sees it.

“the condition of having or being composed of differing elements : variety; especially : the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group of organization” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

“the state or quality of being different or varied : a point of difference” Collins English Dictionary

“Similarities and differences among employees in terms of age, cultural background, physical abilities and disabilities, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.” Business Dictionary.com

Those are definitions – words that describe an idea. But what about interpretation of those ideas? That’s what people “believe” about words and ideas. And what about “application?” That’s how people “behave” based on their beliefs. Here are some descriptions of how the idea of diversity is applied in society.

“The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences.  These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.  It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.” University of Oregon Diversity Initiative

“The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences.  These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.  It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual. Diversity is a reality created by individuals and groups from a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical differences. It is extremely important to support and protect diversity because by valuing individuals and groups free from prejudice, and by fostering a climate where equity and mutual respect are intrinsic.” Queensborough Community College

“Workplace diversity refers to the variety of differences between people in an organization. That sounds simple, but diversity encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education, background and more. Diversity not only involves how people perceive themselves, but how they perceive others. Those perceptions affect their interactions. For a wide assortment of employees to function effectively as an organization, human resource professionals need to deal effectively with issues such as communication, adaptability and change. Diversity will increase significantly in the coming years. Successful organizations recognize the need for immediate action and are ready and willing to spend resources on managing diversity in the workplace now.” Diversity Working.com

First, let me say that I understand the importance of diversity in our society. I grew up in America at a time when races were separated in almost every aspect of life – including Sunday mornings at church. I remember as a young child being pulled away from a water fountain at a grocery store by an adult of my race because the fountain was for people of a different race. That seemed so odd to me as a child and still does to this day. It was my junior year in high school before anyone from another race was allowed to attend our school. Again, how odd that children would be kept apart simply because of skin color. When I began working as a broadcast journalist in the 1960s, everyone in the newsroom was the same race. That didn’t seem right to me either. When I became a hiring manager I helped diversify newsrooms with the best and brightest people for the jobs we had available. That included men and women of different ages, races and nationalities. That made sense to me as a human being and as a managing journalist who wanted to produce the best newscasts for our viewers every day of the year.

What I’m about to share with you from the Bible has nothing to do with the issue of diversity in hiring and promoting in the workplace or with any other aspect of usual race relations. What it does deal with is God’s Heart for bringing people together around a simple Truth – He is the Creator and deserves worship and praise from His Creation.

God Created one man and one woman (Genesis 1). God used the flesh and bone from the man to Create the woman – so they were the same race (Genesis 2). They spoke the same language. They had the same directive from God to rule the earth together under His Guidance. Their primary difference (diversity) was sexual. The early human society continued with same language, same race, until God confused their language and DNA at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). At that moment, everything in society changed. Families and tribes fled from each other and the challenge of diversity in the human race began.

I share that historical background first because it’s important for us to know that God understands diversity better than anyone alive today or anyone who has ever lived or ever will live. God Created great diversity in the universe. Look at the millions of different kinds of species in the water, on land, and in the air. Look at the trillions of stars in the heavens – so many differences. Yet, in all of His Creative diversity, God Created humans to be of the same race and language. If it weren’t for their fall into sin, all of us would be immortals of the same race and tongue.

God Created humans for the purpose of ruling with Him, and their ability to rule would come from their unity. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) One flesh – not two, not three, not hundreds or thousands – one flesh. God’s Design for the human race is oneness.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28

What is God’s Image and Likeness? It includes Unity – Oneness. It was the deep desire of Christ’s Heart the night before He died that His disciples would be unified. “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.” (John 17:11b) Jesus also prayed for everyone who would believe in Him through the words of His disciples.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. ‘Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:20-26

That is one of the most beautiful prayers we have recorded from our Savior and Lord. Here’s another way to read it that becomes extremely personal – replace the pronouns with your name. “I do not pray for these alone, but also for (insert your name here)”. The Lord’s Prayer is for you and me and everyone who will confess their sin, believe in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and be saved (Romans 10:9). Jesus wants you to “be one” as He is One with His Father in Heaven. The Lord wants us to be one in Him so the world may believe that God the Father sent God the Son. Jesus wants us to “be made perfect in one.” Why? “… that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

So, here’s what we have. God Created the human race for the purpose of being one with Him. Sin separated humans from their Creator. Later, because of their sin against their Creator, God separated humans from each other by confusing language and race. Jesus Died and Rose from the dead to prepare the Way for us to become one with God again. Given this historical background, why would we need diversity in the Church? The answer may surprise you – Next Week!

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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