Unity in Diversity

What does it mean to be diverse? Technically speaking, it’s just having a variety of stuff, though when we use it we’re generally referring to the inclusion in a group or organization of people from many different backgrounds, ethnicities, and experiences. The kingdom of God has always been a diverse place–you can begin at the beginning to see God’s appreciation of diversity in the makeup of creation. Leaders in the Old Testament came from different backgrounds, and the people of Israel sometimes welcomed “outsiders” into their fold. Ruth was from Moab, God saved the Ninevites, and the disciples themselves were a motley crew made up of fisherman, a doctor, a tax collector, a Hellenized Jew, and eventually one of the most bigoted Jewish leaders. Moreover, Jesus often spoke to diverse groups of people, welcoming the upper crust, no crust, and even Samaritans to God’s feast of love.

Jesus made clear through both walk and talk that the Gospel is for everyone–a message solidified in Peter’s vision in Acts 10, and Paul’s words in Galatians 3 that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female in God’s kingdom.

Though unity is central in the body of Christ (look at Acts 2 and the oneness of the believers), diversity is as well. The early church was highly diverse. There were people from different races, zip codes, cultures, theologies, and income levels who came together united under the banner that Jesus saves. Was there conflict? Of course! And there was positioning and posturing and power grabbing, too. But time and again the church leaders sought to resolve conflict by taking the path of love because they understood that what mattered most was the transformation of the world through the gospel message of Jesus Christ. (Acts 15:6-21) Peter affirmed to the Jerusalem Council that both circumcised and uncircumcised were saved in the same way–by the grace of Christ Jesus.

In the 3rd letter of John, the apostle writes to a dear friend and shares that he and his team of missionaries have been barred from a church because of Diotrephes–a seemingly self-appointed gatekeeper who has taken umbrage with John’s message, even resorting to spreading “malicious nonsense” about John and his followers. However, John also expresses his intent to call this bully out the next time he’s in town…because in the kingdom of God, there is no room for bullies.

Lately, I have been troubled at the bullying supposedly good “Christians” have been doing–seeking to marginalize, castigate, and even dehumanize others, and barring them from the love of Jesus Christ. John’s words about the malicious nonsense being spread ring true in the hate-filled rhetoric and mean-spirited laws aimed at the LGBTQ community, as well as Asian Americans, Latin American immigrants, and the Jewish community. The things being spread on social media, shouted by politicians, and enacted in law are nonsense at best, and a fomentation of violence at worst.

Did you know that LGBTQ teens are nearly 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers? And it’s not because of who they are, but how they have been stigmatized and traumatized by their communities. These youth also experience bullying at a much more significant rate than their peers, and are more likely to be both physically and sexually assaulted.

As Jesus followers, we are called to be greeters, not gatekeepers.

I know many Christians have differing views about Scripture and the LGBTQ community–but as someone who has friends in the community, and as someone who has prayerfully studied the Bible with academic insight, I cannot abide the hate some believers spew in Jesus’ name.

Jesus calls us to servant leadership borne of love. His arms are open (John 3:16-18) as he seeks the salvation of all. As Jesus followers, we are called to be greeters, not gatekeepers.

You can agree or disagree with my theology…I don’t mind. The apostles themselves didn’t always agree, but it doesn’t give us the right to be mean or abusive. Jesus never said to hate those who differ from you, to persecute those who are different. He didn’t call his disciples to weaponize his words, or to bully salvation into others (though that’s what some in history have done). No, Jesus said to love others, because it is through loving that we introduce others God.

Blessings and Peace–and Love,