Four Reasons to Pursue Diversity and Racial Reconciliation

I don't know where everyone falls on the scale when it comes to their CQ (cultural intelligence), or how much they know about diversity and racial reconciliation. So, these 4 points below may be a review for some, but for others it may be the first time you have thought about a couple of these things. Regardless, this is God's word, and it is the foundation and motivation for how we should think about these matters of race. If you are like me, you may know these things below on a cognitive level, but it's another ball game to see these principles lived out in our relationships/communities. Two disclaimers:
  1. There will be varying levels of involvement or excitement about diversity or racial reconciliation with people. That's okay...some of us may have a big heart for missions, or fatherlessness, or finances, and they love to think about these things and it comes more naturally. So please don't feel like you have to make diversity the number one issue that you fight for. But at the same time, please ask God to teach you and help you take steps forward as you process how our racial history has impacted us and our country and what God's word says about it all. 
  2. Your organization or staff teams are different. Some are more diverse than others. The practical implications for one organization/team may look a lot different than another organization/team. This blog is not meant to cover every facet of diversity and racial reconciliation, but is meant to be a starting place and is written in a broad sense.

God is the God of the nations.

Every person is made in the image of God! This means every single person has equal worth, dignity and honor. This should drastically change the way we relate to the people on our staff team and the people we minister to. Acts 17:26 says, "And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth..." [1] Did you catch that? God made from one man every nation. Ethnic groups did not randomly come about; God intentionally designed each one. We are all cut from the same cloth; meaning every ethnicity can trace its roots back to Adam and Eve. Question: Since all men/women are made in the image of God, how should that affect, in general, the way you relate to people on your staff team or church? Try to come up with a list of at least 10 things!

There is and will be diversity and harmony in heaven.

The Lord's prayer tells us to pray for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. With our country so polarized, we should desire to play a role in bringing diversity and harmony on earth as it is in heaven. One interesting thing to note, is that hell will also be a place of diversity, but there will be no harmony. Reconciliation is very difficult at times, but can also reap great rewards. Heaven brings us hope as we fall forward in bringing diversity and harmony to earth.

Jesus died to make the church diverse.

Ephesians 2:16 says, "[Jesus] might reconcile us both (Jew and Gentile) to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." [2] "And if one design of the cross of Christ is to reconcile alienated ethnic groups to each other by reconciling them to God in Christ, then will we not display and magnify the cross of Christ better by more and deeper and sweeter ethnic diversity and harmony in our corporate and personal lives?" [3] Racial diversity and harmony in today's world is one huge way to point people to the gospel of Jesus Christ. "Christian faith can create a deep affinity between people who are different in every other way. That is why friendship between believers from diverse racial backgrounds can be so powerfully formative. They are empowered by faith in the ultimate friend of our souls (John 15:13-15), whose constancy, vulnerability, and love cannot be surpassed." [4]

Diversity leads to organizational and personal health.

Yes, it does lead to sanctification and health, but the journey can be very hard and requires perseverance, honest communication, listening, patience, and remembering who we are in Jesus Christ. When our primary identity is found in Jesus, it leaves plenty of room to celebrate each other's cultures, and at the same time learn about our own cultural blind spots. It frees us to listen and understand, rather than argue and be defensive. "We don't want to merely see diversity for diversity's sake, or because all the cool kids are doing it, but because gospel-centered diversity magnifies the lordship of Christ and the uniqueness of his church. It helps to clarify what the gospel is and isn't. And it offers unique perspectives and questions that help to mature us, shaping us more into the image of Jesus." [5] Tom Skinner sums up this last point really well: "Racial reconciliation is whites and blacks holding on to each other, not letting go, and doing surgery on each other." [6]

Where do I go from here?

You may be wondering, "Where do I start?" or "How do I begin to engage issues about race and diversity?" More could be said, but here are a few things you can begin doing:
  1. Seek to build a relationship with someone of another race. Ask good questions and listen, listen, listen! Do not try to fix and offer solutions; simply listen. For white people, we have grown up in majority culture, which leads us to think we don't have a culture, which keeps us from understanding the way our culture impacts people of color. We do not think about being white and its implications. America is a country made for whiteness (put bluntly). People of color wake up every day thinking about their skin color and culture. Learn more about what that looks like for them, and as you do that, your eyes will be opened to many things that are either unjust or simply different. For black people, it may be exhausting trying to help white people understand what it is like to be black in America, but we need you to press into that some.
  2. Read and learn.
    • Resources – Divided by Faith by Emerson and Smith; Oneness Embraced by Tony Evans; Letter from Birmingham Jail by MLK Jr.; White Awake by Daniel Hill.
  3. Visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute or the recently built Legacy Museum and lynching memorial in Montgomery. See, feel, learn, and reflect. These places will open your eyes to the injustice in our country.
  4. Have people to process all the above with. Ask God to show you assumptions, biases, and sin that you can repent of. In this area of race, we all have some sort of sin, bias or lack of knowledge. In a safe community, the best thing to do is be real about it, to be contrite about it, and to be someone who desires to fall forward. I believe most people will respect that much more than not acknowledging it at all. And to see a genuine desire to grow, change, and understand! That's when real reconciliation and diversity will happen!
[1] Acts 17:26 ESV
[2] Ephesians 2:16 ESV
[3] Piper, John. Bloodlines. Crossway, 2011
[4] Keller, Tim and Kathy. God's Wisdom for Navigating Life. Viking, 2017
[5] Merida, Tony and Strickland II, Walter R. "How the Biblical Story Speaks to Racial Diversity." The Gospel Coalition, 15 March 2018.
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/podcasts/acts-29/biblical-story-racial-diversity/
[6] Piper, John. Bloodlines. Crossway, 2011

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