What Diversity Should Look Like
By matt chandler
February 23, 2012
If you were to pair up with various people in your life and list your similarities and differences—your favorite foods, the places you’ve visited, where you grew up, what you love to do most on a Friday night—on a piece of paper, you will have far more differences than likenesses. Some of these differences are trivial and some are significant, but the brokenness of human nature makes people prone to a “better than” mentality when it comes to these differences. Whether it’s preference, income, weight, education, ethnicity, upbringing or personality, the temptation is always to elevate your own experience over someone else’s. Within the Church, this can lead to conflict, division and sorrow. But those differences can also be the glory of God made manifest.
Here are three key areas where we need to be careful of our differences causing division—and where our differences can make the glory of God visible in spectacular ways:
Righteous and Unrighteous
Say there is a man or woman who has walked in the darkness of licentiousness, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, addiction or betrayal. They receive the grace and mercy of Christ and enter into the body of Christ. Then there is another man or woman who has followed all the rules their entire life, never touched a sip of alcohol and also comes under the grace and mercy of God. What if these two end up mingling in a church home group? That can get awkward, huh? Think about the conversations they’re having. Think about how difficult it is for them to relate. There is a collision of worlds.
It may result in division. The one who has sinned in self-righteousness may puff themselves up at the expense of the one who has sinned without restraint. All of a sudden, they become the coach, because their self-righteousness has gotten them so far.
Or, both can marvel and glory in the forgiving, saving work of Jesus Christ in that—while one was a legalist and one was wallowed in licentiousness—both of them offended God and He rescued them both.
Obeying all the rules does not make someone less of a blasphemer—no less wicked than the one who has broken all the rules. The glory of God is seen when two people of different backgrounds mingle in such a way that they both celebrate the forgiveness made available in Jesus Christ.
Rich and Poor
In James 2, it says: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?”
The Gospel wants to attack the division that can occur around socioeconomic status, between the rich and the poor. There will be no partiality in the kingdom of God between those who make much and those who make little.
The glory of God is seen when money isn’t an issue at all, because we all stand on the same ground—sinners in need of a Savior, sinners in need of grace. There are few places in our culture that the morally impure and upright, the poor and the wealthy engage in a level of intimacy where they do life together and are friends. The glory of the church of Jesus Christ is found when those relationships occur.
Race and Ethnicity
Historically, nowhere else has a “better than” mentality been more apparent than when it comes to issues of skin color and race.
There is no doubt that over the last 20 years, we have, in our political correctness, removed some things from our language. But while political correctness might suppress your mouth, it does nothing to your heart. It may actually cause you to be unable to identify what’s in your heart because you know “the right answer.” Nothing is more dangerous than numbing and suppressing your heart to a level where you know the right answer but don’t have the right heart.
When it comes to prejudice, some people are bigots, and some are just misinformed. But Jesus aggressively assaulted the idea of being ethnocentric—so much so that the Jews tried to kill Him for it on more than one occasion (see Luke 4:14-28).
There are pieces of every culture that are redeemable and pieces of every culture that are sinful and need to be addressed. In the cross of Jesus Christ, cultures are cleansed of their iniquity and are celebrated in their diversity.
One of the ways God shows Himself glorious in the diversity that has historically led to genocide, wars, death, destruction and injustice is in coming together and worshiping as brothers and sisters—a new family not defined by those things, but rather defined by Christ. In my opinion, there shouldn’t be black churches and white churches. There shouldn’t be Hispanic congregations and Anglo congregations. They should simply be the Church. We don’t rally around our color; we rally around the blood of Jesus.
Achieving True Diversity
How can Christians strive to become an inviting and diverse representation of the Kingdom of God?
Pray. We need to pray that God would increase the diversity of our fellowship in every way possible for the glory of His name.
Search our hearts. Some judge harshly those who are poor, those of other skin colors, those who don’t look like them. It’s not just about controlling one’s mouth—it costs too much in our culture to say such things anyway. But the heart is a different animal.
Be gracious and welcoming to the irreligious and to the religious. Whether they grew up in Sunday school or have never set foot in a church before, look beyond an individual’s spiritual history.
It’s not just about serving the poor or knowing someone who is different. The hope is that believers would walk intimately with people who don’t look like them, aren’t in the same place and have not been blessed in the same way—that we would walk together in such a way that shows a Jesus who transcends the walls of hostility the world has built up.
Matt Chandler is the lead pastor, teaching, at The Village Church in Dallas, Flower Mound and Denton and author of the upcoming book The Explicit Gospel (Crossway).