For the past two columns I have looked at what the scripture has to say about the “buzzwords” surrounding the drive to be more inclusive and equitable in dealing with people inside and outside of the church as well as the population in general. We have looked at inclusivity and equity and concluded that scripture endorses these qualities when applied within the boundaries of God’s revealed plan for mankind. So now it is time to turn to diversity.
The secular world would have us believe that diversity is one of the great virtues and greatest values in putting together any organization. Scripture both agrees and disagrees — strongly, in both cases!
I encourage you to engage in a bible search for diversity using one of the many online tools available. If searching the King James translation, you should also include “divers” (not the scuba diving kind!) since the modern spelling of “diverse” came later.
What you will discover is that the Old Testament has rules against putting dissimilar things together, especially when there is a risk of one harming the other:
“‘Keep my decrees. “‘Do not mate different kinds of animals. “‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. “‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.’” Leviticus 19:19 NIV
I will let you discover the (many) other rules along the same lines, but in general they seem to be aimed at maintaining safety, integrity and purity, especially at the expense of convenience and profit.
This idea of purity was also applied to the people, priests and sacrifices of the Jewish nation. It is obvious that if God wanted an example of His dealings with the human race, they needed to be, and remain, different from the races and cultures surrounding them. The great danger was always that the polytheistic, idolatrous, and sinful practices of the neighboring tribes would pollute and obscure the standard of God’s law.
When we get to the gospel writers we discover that diversity is now generally applied to physical ailments:
News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various [diverse] diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Matthew 4:24 NIV
An astounding thing about that passage is that it took place in Syria (not Judea), and the context of the Greek says that Jesus healed them all! This would include diseases which the Jewish authorities would deem making Him “unclean”. So, we see the diversity of Jesus’ concern for human suffering applying to “all shapes and sizes, types and conditions”! This was one of the factors that led to the condemnation and ultimate murder of Christ by the religious authorities.
Later in the New Testament, the writings of the Holy Spirit to the Church through Paul address both the purity morality as well as pointing out the essentially and advantage to the body of Christ of a diverse population, especially with regard to Spiritual Gifts. I encourage you to re-read 1 Corinthians 12 in its entirety, but these verses are representative:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11 NIV
Paul then goes on to point out that this diversity is not only good, but essential, to the efficient and effective functioning of the body of Christ. A deficiency in one area will lead to impairment and inadequacy for the whole organism.
So, the view from 30,000' for believers about how to think about diversity from the scriptures seems to be this:
1) avoid “diversity” that would lead to harm, pollution or the adoption of sin;
2) embrace the “diversity” of the love of Jesus for all people no matter the extent or depth of their sinfulness knowing that He can, and is willing to, cleanse of all sin;
3) build up and exercise the diversity of gifts within the church so that the Body of Christ will be healthy, energetic and efficient in proclaiming the gospel to every living being.
For the view from 5’, please examine the individual scripture as guided by the Holy Spirit!
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black