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Diversity: the condition of having or being composed of differing elements; variety. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
The word diversity is not in the Bible. And though not in the Bible, God’s word is filled with diverse descriptions of people, God’s created and image-bearing people. God, himself, is diverse as the triune God—three in one person. Diversity is found throughout the pages of Genesis as tribes and tongues and nations are established (Genesis 1-11). We see diversity in the way the Lord calls people to himself—all nations. Paul ties it all together reminding the Galatians of God’s promise to Abraham for all the nations. “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justifythe Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’” (Galatians 3:8). And we see diversity in his challenge for us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28: 16-20). Diversity is not a word in the Bible but by definition we cannot escape it. And why would we want to? Diversity is a beautiful reflection of God’s creation. God’s unique and creative design of his image-bearers is diverse.
The Problem with Sin
Unfortunately it can be difficult to embrace diversity because of sin. One particular area is partiality. Partiality can cause us to eschew others. James addresses the sin of partiality strongly when he warns: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9). Pride rears its ugly head causing division. Self-righteousness can make us think more highly of ourselves than we ought and less of others. Sin destroys relationships and the chance for relationships. But thanks be to God that we have victory in Christ. The partial can become loving. The prideful can become humble and the self-righteous can begin to view others as God’s created and designed image bearers.
But we have to first recognize it to fight it. We have to recognize that we have a temptation to sin against our fellow neighbor rather than love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s hard to recognize planks in our eyes but by God’s grace we can. And God’s promise is that if we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us and purify us (1John 1:9). The problem with temptations that deal with race is that it has the potential to affect churches (division, disunity, etc.) and impede the sharing of the gospel to others. What this can cause is homogenous friendship and divided churches.
There isn’t a problem with having and even embracing friendships with those like you. That’s not the point. The problem is when we resist inviting others into our lives because of sin (partiality, self-righteousness, and pride). I have wonderful friendships. I am married now, but when my friends and I were in college we were attached to the hip. We did everything together. We ate together, went to events together, and enjoyed fellowship and church together. Though these relationships were a sweet blessing from God, we tried not to become closed-off to others. My friends and I worked hard to be mission-minded at church and at functions where others would be around.
The temptation with sweet friendships is to be shut-off from others or cliquish. Cliques or factions within the church or community are closed groups. It's hard for a stranger to penetrate a faction. (As I am sure you know if you've ever been on the outside of a clique!) Factions can impede any efforts for diversity—for embracing all nations. That is why we, as Christians, need to be intentionally mindful of our surroundings and the opportunities to include others in our lives.
Christ tells us in the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). One simple step to being mission-minded in the context of where you are right now is to simply avoid the temptation to be partial or form factions. Our friendships are wonderful, but in order to make disciples of all nations we must open up our lives to people we don't know. Even people we aren't sure about.
Practically, it may be as simple as choosing to speak to someone unlike you. Maybe it's even taking a step of faith and inviting someone to lunch. God can provide opportunities for mission work without going to a foreign country. There is a mission field available to you right where you are. A diverse and beautiful field. The Lord says the workers are few but the harvest is plentiful (Luke 10:2).
Trillia Newbell is a freelance journalist and writer. She writes on faith and family for The Knoxville News-Sentinel, and serves as the managing editor for Women of God Magazine and Lead Editor of Karis, the Women’s Channel of CBMW. Her love and primary role is that of a wife and mother. She lives in Tennessee with her husband Thern and their two children. You can learn more about her via her site www.trillianewbell.com and follow her on twitter: @trillianewbell.