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In Celebration of True Diversity [10-18-20]

The world loves to talk about diversity. If you haven't had a seminar or meeting or a memo on diversity, do you really work for an American company? Many colleges require diversity appreciation courses in order to graduate. Growing numbers of schools, corporations, and organizations have "Chief Diversity Officers." The world carries the banner of multiculturalism and diversity - but too often, for reasons that have nothing to do with Jesus.

As we'll do today, any conversation about diversity must be shaped by and rooted in the Bible.

We should always remember that, in any discussion about multiculturalism and diversity, it's not primarily about us, but it is about God. God gets more glory when there is diversity than when there is not. There would be nothing worth celebrating if we were all one single, monolithic society. That is not what the Bible teaches. In enjoying and celebrating our diversity, our greatest joy should not be in the different kinds of food or clothing or even different types of people who are not like us. These are all gifts from God for us to enjoy. They are good. But we find our highest joy in seeing God's glory reflected and captured in new and beautiful ways.

The greatest good of multiculturalism is seeing more of God.

So, diversity. Let's dive in.

First, a truth about diversity and the Christian faith:

Christianity is the most ethnically and culturally diverse religion the world has ever known.

That is an unarguable fact. As a side note, throughout this message, I will not talk about racial distinctives or differences. There are not different races. We are one race…the human race. Within the family of God there are cultural and ethnic differences. And it is a beautiful thing.

In the Body of Christ, we celebrate diversity. We love diversity. Diversity

within the human family fills us with cross-centered joy over God's plan to

reconcile all nations in Christ.

Here's Biblical truth. God ordained ethnic diversity. It was God's plan to bring all people from all nations into the family of God. That is unified harmony. One diverse body. One chosen people. One royal priesthood. One holy nation. One treasured possession. One family. And all of this purchased by the blood of Christ. Jesus died on the cross to bring us all together. Amen?

Christian author Rebecca McLaughlin writes:

I am flying as I write. My neighbor is a twelve-year-old Ghanaian boy wearing three wristbands. One identified him as an unaccompanied minor. One reads, "Commitment to Kindness." The third says, "Walking with Jesus." My new friend has lived in the United States for a year and worships at a Ghanaian Presbyterian church. He tells me there are lots of Christians in Africa, but fewer in America because Americans believe in diversity. I point out that - contrary to popular belief - Christianity is the most ethnically, culturally, socioeconomically…diverse belief system in all of history. The fact that it unites him and me across age, {gender}, ethnicity,

culture, and country of origin is a case in point!

What she shared with him was the beauty of unity in diversity. Here's a woman, born in England, educated at Cambridge, teaching in the United States, talking with a young exchange student from Ghana, who share the most important commonality…devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Can we say God's sovereignty expressed through His electing grace?

Psalm 96:3-4 says:

Declare his glory among the nations,     his marvelous works among all the peoples!  For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;     he is to be feared above all gods.

Notice the word, "for." The extraordinary greatness of the praise the Lord should receive is the primary purpose of the gospel going out to all the world. We exist to praise God. And what greater praise is there than people of all cultures, nations, and backgrounds joining in singing holy, holy, holy to the Lord God Almighty?

Consider the analogy of a choir. More depth and beauty is felt from a choir

that sings in parts then from a choir that only sings in unison. The same goes for instruments. A beautiful blend of balance in different instruments makes for a richer sound. Even those of us who like jazz - not the Kenny G kind of jazz but the discordant, often jarring type - requires multiples of instruments. Whether voices or instruments, unity in diversity is more beautiful and more powerful than the unity of uniformity. Carry that over to the untold differences that exist between the people of the world. When the diversity unites in worship to God, the beauty of their praise will echo the depth and greatness of God's beauty far more than if the redeemed were from only few different people groups.

Did you know that, in 1979, there were an estimated 500 Christians from a Muslim background in Iran? A year later, Islamofascism transformed a relatively tolerant Muslim-majority country into an oppressive regime. Women were denied rights they had previously enjoyed. Public executions became commonplace. Through these grim times, people sought refuge in Christianity. It is now estimated there are around one million Christians in Iran. Praise God for the joy of His sovereignty expressed through His electing grace in places like Iran and Ghana.

Christianity is the most diverse movement in human history. Our differences are good and right and need to be celebrated. They are from God.

"I am colorblind," while I think I understand the intent, denies the beauty of our differences. "I am colorblind." What does that even mean? Why would you want to be colorblind? You wouldn't say that about roses. "I'm so glad there's only one color of rose." "I only see one color of flower." Our colors, our ethnicities, are beautiful things. I don't want to not be aware of cultural and ethnic differences. America is a beautiful collection of ethnic diversity. It is God's providence. It is God's design to bring us all together. We are all precious in God's sight.

Voddie Baucham is an author, pastor, and teacher who is really solid Biblically and theologically. He once talked about his skin pigment. He asked, "Why would I ever want you to be colorblind? Why would I ever want to be colorblind? I have black skin and it's beautiful because it's the way God made me." Why would you ever want to deny that or ignore that?

Let's look at what Paul says about ethnicity in Romans 9:1-3:

I am speaking the truth in Christ — I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit — that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

There's a lot going on in this chapter. Some of this we covered last month when we looked at God's sovereignty expressed through His electing grace. You can go into the sermon archive on our website to revisit those points. For our purpose today, we're going to look at how Romans 9 speaks to diversity.

Here, in verses 1-3, Paul is saying he loves his people. He is not denying his ethnicity. How many of us have done one of those DNA test things? My wife has done it. My brother did it, so I didn't have to. We're both pretty confident we share the same parents! How many of you have done it? It's fun. It's educational. It's informative. My brother and I have an impressive proportion of Neanderthal DNA. So we've got that going for us. Paul is speaking to the group to which, by God's grace and providence, he belongs. We love our heritage. We love our backstories. Ethnicity is important.

So, on to Romans 9:4-5:

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In other words, out of Paul's ethnicity came salvation. And it had nothing to with how good they were or how right they were or how smart they were or how righteous they were. It had nothing to do with anything they possessed in and of themselves. They were chosen through the grace and mercy of God, that He might be glorified. They did not choose God, but God chose them, so no one might boast.

Let's round things out with Romans 9:6-8:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Our connection to Christ is more important than our ethnicity. In Christ, God is bringing a diverse family together to praise and serve Him. That is a good thing.

So here we have Paul, embracing his ethnicity while at the same time not turning it into an idol. This is the way he has led us. As we travel the way of diversity, let's avoid the ditch on both sides of the road. Let's avoid the one that says we're colorblind, that ethnicity doesn't matter, and the one that says ethnicity is everything.

The fact that we have been chosen by Christ is what makes us one. We share deeper bonds with Christians in Ghana or Korea or India than with non-believers in our own community.

So what threatens the diversity we celebrate in Christ? Getting stuck in one of those two ditches. And it happens all the time. Sometimes people are over-sensitive to issue of culture and ethnicity. Huge problem today is I assume I can read the other person's heart. "You said this or did this because this is how you feel or think." That kind of attitude compromises genuine relationships. If you say the wrong thing or come down on the wrong side of a particular issue, suddenly you are a bad person. That's not genuine relationship. That's not the kind of relationships brothers and sisters in Christ are supposed to have. If I assume that I can read your heart, and you assume I think that way, we have created a relationship that is imbalanced. That hinders our intimacy. That's not diversity.

We do not want to have a relationship where, when to the best of your ability you are loving this person, but the wrong thing slides out of your mouth at the wrong time, that you, in all sincerity, meant to be a blessing, they then determined it was an affront to them and a sin against God. What kind of relationship it that?

Here's what's happening more and more. And it just wrecks diversity. If you hold the wrong position on a certain social justice issue, people will be done with you. Here's what happened four years ago. And it happened on both sides of the political aisle. After the election, I was asked, "How could someone say they're a Christian and vote for {one or the other candidate}?" That broke my heart. There are people who, if you don't see things their way, will remove you like a statue of a Founding Father.

This hinders genuine relationship. When we can't be honest with each other, what are we left with? Where we're not free to air what we're thinking about or working through, what are we left with?

Sometimes it feels like we are losing our grip on God-given diversity. We are now developing a cult of atonement. Fifty years ago, a white person, thinking about the race problem, came away asking, "How can I help?" Today, the same person too often comes away asking, "How can I show that I am a moral person?" The trend now is, "I don't care that you've been working for decades to prevent the slaughter if innocent black babies at abortion clinics. I want to know how sorry you are for being white…for being an oppressor…for being responsible for systemic racism." That is not a celebration of diversity.

In genuine relationships, I have to be free to be wrong, and to have you

love me and correct me and not dismiss my whole person.

The great joy of diversity is that we are united in Christ to serve him and

give him glory and honor and praise. And God is bringing together great

groups of people in every part of the world to do this.

Make no mistake. There are great ills, great sin, great problems, great wrongs, that need to be rectified. But God has given us a way to deal with these things - to rectify these things. God has given us His all-sufficient Word to deal with these things. We need to trust in the Word of God. Not our feelings. Not our inclinations. Not our own personal assumptions or opinions. But the Word of God. Let us do what the book says:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

- 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

So let us speak to the great ills and evils and sins of our day. Let us proclaim and trust in the gospel of Christ above all else. And let us never, ever forget that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And that we are all in desperate need of His grace.

How beautiful is the diversity of His saints, who are called according to His purpose.

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