God’s views about diversity are clear in Scripture – and that clarity should guide Christians in the decisions we make about diversity in the Church. Though the issue of diversity can be complex to us, we can sum up God’s view of diversity in three words: birth, belief and behavior.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. ‘He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:14-18
“And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” Acts 16:30-32
“For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Romans 10:10-13
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
“For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Ephesians 5:5
“I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:7-8
Notice that birth is not a barrier to God. That means race, ethnicity, language and gender are not a barrier to becoming a member of the Body of Christ. That’s a key to how God sees diversity and how you and I should see diversity. The world has turned inclusion and exclusion inside out. People look on the outer appearance, while God looks on the heart. That’s the key that unlocks the door to diversity.
“For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
All people are born into sin and need God’s forgiveness. No one can be born a Christian. They can be born to Christian parents, but they aren’t saved because of that. Salvation comes through repentance and confession. It’s always been that way. God sees the heart, sees the need, and presents the cure.
When you see me – what do you see? When I see you – what do I see? When God sees us – what does He see? Do we see skin color? Do we see ethnicity? Do we see gender? Do we see barriers because of diversity? We shouldn’t because God doesn’t. God knows our skin color. He knows our ethnicity. He knows our gender. And none of those things deters Him from loving us and wanting us to saved. God sees people based on their spiritual position. Are you in Christ? That’s how God sees us – and how we should see each other.
Gender exists because God Created it. Skin color, ethnicity and language differences exist because God caused that to happen because of the sinfulness of the human race (Genesis 11). God is not holding any of that against us. We are who we are. Members of Christ’s Body need to get over ourselves about race and nationality. We need to accept each other in the same way Jesus accepts us. Do you think any of that matters in Heaven? Of course not. What matters is that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
God is asking people of all genders, races, nationalities, and languages to do two things – believe Him and obey Him. That’s not complicated, but it seems to be the most difficult thing for people to do. People in the world today are running all over the place trying to find meaning and purpose in life, but most are missing it by running around it. Faith in God is what God desires and demands. Jesus made it clear that nobody comes to God unless they come through Him (John 14:6). It is very clear in the writings of the Apostle Paul that faith in Christ is the only way to God. Every person on the planet is the same – a sinner – and the cure for sin is the same – faith in Jesus Christ.
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26
What matters to God about those who belong to Him – and should matter to us in the Church – is behavior. The Bible makes it crystal clear that God cares very much about how His children behave. That’s what most of the Bible is about – the behavior of God’s people. What God cares about should be what Christians care about. God loves people – hates sin. That’s our diversity. We should love people and hate sin. Unfortunately, we can visit many, many churches around the world that have that turned around and inside out. They love what God hates and hate what God loves. How did that happen? An even more important question – how do we change that?
Change comes to the Church as Christians accept Christ’s Kingship over their lives. As long as Christians want to be little kings in little kingdoms, they will miss what’s important to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Nothing we need to know has been hidden from us. God has communicated His Will to the Church clearly through His Word. All we have to do is read the Bible in context and do what God tells us to do. However, that is the really hard part.
Many Christians don’t know what God says. They follow traditions of men, but haven’t heard from God. It continues to amaze me that millions of Christians have a God-deafness – they don’t hear what God says to them. They live their lives according to the ways of the world instead of the Way of God. The Church – and that means every individual Christian who makes up the Church – needs to take a hard look at the Word of God, themselves, their ministries, and their local assemblies. Do you see diversity in your church that matches what the Bible says a local church should be? Does it have a diversity in people of race and ethnic background? Is it open to people of all ages? How does your church deal with sin? Does it teach that sin is wrong? Does it name the sins God says are wrong? Does it stand for what God loves and against what God hates? Or does your church stand with the world and allow sinful behavior among its people?
The Apostle Paul called on the carnal Corinthian believers to take a stand against open, sexual sin in their church. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!” (1 Corinthians 5:1) Can you imagine that? A man is having sex with his father’s wife. What did the Corinthian Christians do about it? “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:2) Did I just hear Paul say that some members of the Corinthian Church were puffed up and actually justified his actions? They should have been mourning this terrible thing and taken quick action against the offending brother. That’s exactly what Paul told the Corinthian Church to do. “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5)
It’s easy for Christians today to shake their heads and wag their fingers at the Corinthians – but what are we allowing to go undisciplined in our churches? If we take a hard look at the behavior of many in our local assemblies and denominational leadership today, we should be ashamed. We’re as bad, if not worse than the Corinthians.
But – you say – life is complicated today. It’s just not easy to deal with all of the different kinds of behavior that people bring into churches today. Why not? What’s different between AD 61 and AD 2011? Did God’s Word change during that time? Did God send new prophets and apostles to the Church to rewrite His Word so we don’t have to do what He said in the original letters of the Apostles? As silly as that may sound, that’s exactly how many Christians treat God’s Word today. They act as if the original writings of Scripture have been replaced by some other document that’s a lot easier to live out. Sorry, but there is no other document. There is no easier way to live the Christian life. It’s spelled out clearly in the Bible. And in case we forget – here are some of the last words recorded in the Bible – “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
To summarize – God accepts men and women, boys and girls of all races into His Church. He accepts people of all national backgrounds into His Church. He accepts people of all languages into His Church. God takes the many and makes than one in His Son – “by grace through faith” – unity from diversity. God does not accept blatant sinful behavior from members of His Church. He wants Christians to love what He loves and hate what He hates. This is how God sees diversity in the Church.
I leave you with several important examples of what God wants from His Church.
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Revelation 2:4-6
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” Revelation 2:14-16
“Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” Revelation 2:20-23
“I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.” Revelation 3:1-3
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:15-19
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”