As the American church continues to struggle with the issue of racial diversity, one popular catch-phrase suggests that the church should somehow become “color blind” — ignore our differences and treat everyone in the same manner. While I most certainly affirm our need to love every person with His love, “color blindness” is not the antidote for the latent (and blatant) racism that clings to culture. Let me explain…
When Peter was led of God to carry the gospel across the barrier between Jew and Gentile, he explained how his heart was changed: “But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28) When Peter said “I should not call” he meant don’t say it, don’t think it, don’t joke about it, and don’t ignore it. Why? Because to declare “any man common or unclean” is simply not true. No man is “common” (i.e., profane, worthless) or beyond God’s desire to love him. Similarly, no man is “unclean” or beyond God’s power to purify him.
Let me offer four reasons why we should explore (and not ignore) our differences:
- our God-given differences are beautiful – we need to remember Who made us different! What makes us different from one another is bound up in the creative intention of our Father, and consequently something to recognize, affirm, and value!
- our God-given differences are missional – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Mt 28:19) Our differences are “borders” to be crossed with the gospel, not obstacles we should fear or avoid.
- our God-given differences are essential – “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” (1 Cor. 12:17-18) Diversity in the church reflects the purpose and provision of God – just another of His wonderful ways of supplying everything the church needs to accomplish everything He has called them to do.
- our God-given differences are eternal – “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.‘” (Rev. 5:9) Notice that eternity is not “color blind.” Our God-given differences do not disappear and dissolve into some new kind of angelic uniformity. The unique and beautiful way that God made you and me becomes a tapestry of praise in His presence. Believers on earth are already “citizens” and participants in the culture of heaven. He has set us free (together) to become fully and exactly what He created us to be… today!
There’s no need to ignore differences or pretend they do not exist. Those differences are not threats to be feared, but real and God-given expressions of His creative love and wisdom.