One of the strongest metaphors for the church is that of a Body. Different parts that fit together into one cohesive whole. Bible passages that talk about the Body metaphor often also talk about spiritual gifts, what career counselors might call innate skill sets. On a very practical level, Diversity in skills and gifts becomes more and more essential the bigger a group gets. You gotta have someone good at preaching, someone who can sing, someone who can set up chairs, someone who can keep the receipts in order and someone to make everyone feel welcome.
But all those roles could potentially be filled by one demographic. This is not the Diversity that I want to explore.
Why is it important to have men and women, old and young, rich and poor, different races, different cultures, different sexual orientations, different relational statuses all together?
I say because of the one thing that brings us all together. Within the church, we say we are all saved by grace, that grace being the result of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, that sacrifice being potent and powerful enough to eliminiate all barriers to God facing anyone anywhere in any demographic.
There is a way in which all differences are neutralized in Christ. Every person from every demographic is given equal footing, equal value, equal access to Grace. No one can boast or make themselves better than anyone else because of something like gender or race anymore. None of that had any impact of God reaching out to us, none of those factors keep anyone from being reached by God.
So that happens.
Meanwhile, we’re all still here on Earth, each in our own demographic. I don’t think that the beautiful grace of God is meant to eliminate our individual differences, but rather to affirm them. I don’t think we take away from common universal grace by celebrating our differences. Rather, I believe that to celebrate our differences is to make the grace of God even more magnificent.
I will explain.
Different people experience life in different ways. Life is different for a man than for a woman. Different for a white man than a black man different than a transgendered man of any color. Different for a straight person than a queer person. Different for an old person than a young person.
Same with grace. Each of us has a different experience of God, God’s revelation, God’s grace. A white man will experience grace differently than a black man. A man’s experience of grace will be different than a woman’s which is in turn different than the experience of a transgendered woman. A person who has never known poverty will pray differently than a person who has never known financial stability. A hetero-married person will understand relationship with God differently than a divorced person, different than a queer person.
To ignore these differences is to trivialize the varying experiences of people. To trivialize people’s experiences is to de-value the potency of God’s grace and His ability to reach people anywhere in any stage of life.
God’s grace is available and accessible by anyone in any demographic, and in God we find the fullness and completeness of who we are. The love of God empowers a man to be the best man he can be, a woman to be the best woman she can be. A person of color to be the best person of color they can be. A queer person the best queer person they can be. And so on. In this way differences become validated.
Celebrating these differences declares that God is not limited in who He can save and heal and have relationship with. To emphasize our diversities is to magnify the reach of God and the depth of His love which can transform any individual from any background.
This is why I believe Diversity is an essential dynamic in a healthy church. Really, in any people group.
What’s your experience of living in a diverse or not-so-diverse environment?