God has decided that He would display His creativity through making many different kinds of people: gender, ethnicity, age, etc. Image bearers are a diverse people.
But God’s image is not the only source of diversity in humanity. Sin also affects us all uniquely leading to a diversity of depravity. Some people’s sins look different from other people’s sins, we are “inventors of evil” (Rom 1:30) and those different sins can become enshrined in cultures, in identities, and in worldviews.
This tells us two things: (1) There is a diversity that we should celebrate and (2) there is a diversity that we should lament.
Diversity Worth Celebrating
We are told that in the New Creation there will be individuals from every tribe, language, and people around Jesus’ throne worshipping and praising Him (Rev 5:9-10). This is because Jesus is available to all kinds of people without distinction. In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free (Gal 3:28). In other words, Jesus is so big and beautiful and glorious that He can draw in people from all over the globe, and all those different kinds of people belong in Jesus’ family. Christianity is not the “white man’s religion”, but is for the Chinese grandparent, the Scandinavian school teacher, the Australian Aborigine, the Canadian professor, and the Chilean teenager. The diversity of the family of God is worth celebrating because it is a testimony to the creativity of our God and the glory of Jesus that brings together a group of people who wouldn’t normally be brought together by anything else. Paul explains that the blood of Jesus tore down the “dividing wall of hostility” that separates ethnic and cultural groups, and now in Christ we are all “one new man” (Eph 2:11-22).
This means that anyone who treats certain members of God’s family as if they don’t belong because they are culturally different than themselves is in danger of diminishing the glory of Jesus. Peter did this in Galatians 2 when he recoiled from table-fellowship with Gentiles when the Judaizers came around, and Paul opposed Peter to his face because his actions were not “in step with the truth of the gospel,” (Gal 2:14). In other words, Peter was contradicting the gospel itself when he treated non-Jews like they were second-class citizens. Today, Christians should take a strong stance against anything in the church that subtly says: this church is only for a certain kind of Christian. We celebrate God’s good design of diversity, we don’t work against it. Even more serious, Galatians tells us that if we tell people–directly or indirectly–that to be a Christian is: believe the gospel + becoming culturally like us, politically inclined like us, dressing like us, whatever–then we have actually perverted the gospel into something else entirely (Gal 1:6-9).
Diversity Worth Lamenting
In the New Creation, while people from every tribe, tongue, and nation are praising Jesus within the walls of the Heavenly Jerusalem, we are also told, “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life,” (Rev 21:27). Earlier, those outside are described as “the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable,…murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” (Rev 21:8). There is an “inside” and an “outside” to the New Jerusalem, and there is a diversity present in both. The diversity inside is the diversity inherent in God’s initial creation: ethnicity, gender, culture, etc. The diversity outside is the diversity of depravity.
This is not a diversity to celebrate but to weep over. And this tells us that there needs to be a way we can draw a line between “good” and “bad” diversity. Christians draw that line around sin (see 1 Cor 5:9-13). Christians are quick to admit that we are sinners and stumble in many ways, but we do not embrace our sin or use it as a way to identify ourselves. We mourn it, confess it, repent of it, and receive the grace and forgiveness from Jesus to cleanse us of our sin.
The Right Questions
We live at a time where “diversity” is hallowed as a kind of unquestioned virtue, and anyone who claims to exclude individuals is seen as necessarily bad. But even in a secular, humanistic perspective on diversity, there is still a distinction between “good” and “bad” diversity. No secular humanist or LGBTQ ally would be lamenting the lack of representation of white supremacists or pedophiles at their events or on their steering committees. They too have an “inside” and “outside”–we all do.
The question is not whether or not you exclude. The question is what is the basis for your exclusion, why you do you want to accept certain lifestyles and identities and not others. Which leads to the deeper question of what the basis for that reasoning is and whether or not it is a credible one.
Lastly, the final question to consider is how your reasoning leads you to treat those you exclude. Does your basis of your “inside” and “outside” lead you to treat people you disagree with with respect, care, and love? Does it provide a posture of warm welcome to those who are currently “outside” and are considering coming “inside”?
While Revelation tells us that “no unclean thing” comes into the Heavenly Jerusalem, it also tells us that “its gates will never be shut” (Rev 21:25). We all are unclean, but if we come to Jesus, He will cleanse us. His door is always open, His arms always ready to receive. Christianity provides rigid barriers of sin and righteousness, but anyone–whoever we are and whatever we have done–can walk through those open gates and start life anew with Jesus. In other words, church should be a safe place to be a sinner, but not a safe place for sin. Which should cultivate in Christians a warm, gentle, happy heart of welcome to any and all, whether “outside” or “inside”, but never an acceptance or championing of the sin that Jesus died for.