Diversity is a buzzword these days.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on it or all that it encompasses but Scripture does give some lanterns to guide us to a biblical understanding of diversity and how it relates to the kingdom. And what we know for certain is that the kingdom is diverse because God is the most diverse Person the universe has ever known.
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page with what diversity means. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
DIVERSE = Differing from one another; composed of distinct or unlike elements or qualities
HOW IS THIS PLAYED OUT IN THE KINGDOM?
We’re given a clue in Genesis when God promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations, which foreshadowed how Jesus would be the light for the nations so that salvation would reach to the end of the earth (Genesis 17:4, Isaiah 49:6).
WHAT DO THE NATIONS LOOK LIKE? Hint: not the same.
A meeting of the United Nations is not comprised of people who look the same or approach life in the same manner. They are not carbon copies of each other, nor are they trying to be. When the UN gathers at its headquarters in Manhattan, the world is given a tiny glimpse of the beauty, safety, and wisdom found in diversity.
If that is true in a human organization how much more in God’s empire?
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” –Revelation 7:9-10
Diversity bespeaks the Gospel. Where else do you find people of every stripe, language, background, and vocation blended together in a joyful concoction of beauty and unity?
Here are three ways the kingdom of God glistens with the jewel of diversity.
DIVERSE IN COLOR
Thanks to the Tower of Babel, the human race has more colors than a Bob Ross painting. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but the point is there. We have a variety of colors and it all stems back to when God sent out the earth’s limited population to diverse places around the globe.
But, in a tactical maneuver calculated before the foundations of the earth, He would not leave them scattered. When the Son of God became a man, He came with the purpose of gathering and reconciling His multicolored, multicultural, multifaceted bride and presenting her faultless before the throne.
Newsflash: His mission did not fail.
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came One like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. –Daniel 7:13-14
DIVERSE IN BACKGROUNDS
The kingdom is populated with different cultures, castes, and countries. It’s peppered with people raised in different environments and contexts, climates and neighborhoods.
Jews, Gentiles, people from the Far East, people from poverty-stricken third world countries, billionaires from Wall Street. Thieves, murderers, Pharisees, drunkards, tax collectors. Physically attractive, physically unappealing (see: Jesus, Isaiah 53:2), people we hold in high regard, and people we disagree with.
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are You to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
DIVERSE IN GIFTS
God’s empire is one body made up of different parts with each part, like the human body, having a different role and function. However, in Jesus’ body there are no negotiable parts. There will never be an emergency surgery to remove spleens or tonsils, appendixes or gall bladders, because each part serves a strategic purpose and each one is here to stay.
Through these different parts, Jesus’ personality is displayed in varied ways. If we were all alike, not only would our lives be incredibly boring but Jesus wouldn’t be fully demonstrated in the most vibrant way.
There’s a reason we all look different and have varying personality types with different weaknesses, strengths, temptations, talents, and abilities. Each of those things tells us something about Jesus in a particular way that reveals more of His person than we could see on our own.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. –Romans 12:4-8
THE MANY BECAME ONE
From the very beginning, God made us different. Adam and Eve, different and unique, varied and distinct. Yet the same God took what was diverse, scattered, and fragmented and made it into one. Jesus is the creative genius that takes what is plural and makes it singular.
Though Abraham was promised to be the father of many nations, the covenant was made to one nation (Genesis 12:2, Exodus 19:6); a race of new creations reconciled through a costly sacrifice after their story started with a fall. Perhaps Creator God blowing into a handful of dirt specks to make one body wasn’t a one-time event.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. –Ephesians 4:15-16
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one Man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. –Romans 5:19
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. –1 Corinthians 12:13
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. –1 Peter 2:9
That marvelous light is the earmark of God’s empire. And His empire is here. Jesus even taught us to pray “on earth as it is in heaven.” Heaven isn’t comprised of one color. Heaven doesn’t speak one language. Heaven isn’t full of one personality type. Jesus didn’t die for a white church. He didn’t die for a black church. He didn’t die for a church full of pastors. He didn’t die for a church full of moms or car salesmen, writers or musicians. He didn’t die for a church full of blue-eyed athletes, teachers, or homeless people.
As Scripture has proven time and again, Jesus died for every tribe, tongue, and nation, and He did so in a way that meant only He could reap the glory when He made them all into one race, with one background: sin, and one future: grace.