Why Gospel Diversity Means More—Though Not Less!—Than Ethnic Diversity

"In one moment, as Christ utters his last breath and the curtain separating man from God tears from top to bottom, he destroys the barrier dividing Jew from Gentile."

If we seek boundary-crossing love that perplexes the world around us, then some types of diversity will often speak louder than others. A church in the lily-white suburbs of Boston comes to mind. Everyone might have similar skin color, but the congregation sits at the intersection of four towns with dramatically different class identities. So when a former addict from Weymouth spends nights and weekends speaking truth into the marriage of a Hingham banking executive, something is happening that perplexes the surrounding world. In my church, on the other hand, located in what has been one of the most ethnically segregated cities in the country, ethnic diversity speaks volumes. 

 

Ethnic diversity is at the heart of God’s eternal design. As John Piper argues, God gets greater glory and we get greater joy from seeing a multiplicity of peoples won to worship.

In The Compelling Community, Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop have a chapter tucked in there about diversity that is well worth reading.

Working through Ephesians 3:8-11, they ask:

What is it about unity in God’s family that makes even the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” take notice?

They answer:

It is the degree of separation between them before Christ—a separation that Paul in 2:14 calls a “dividing wall of hostility.”

It’s not simply

  • that these two groups were of different ethnicity (though they were), or
  • that they were culturally distinct (though they were), or
  • that for theological reasons they were kept apart (though they were).

It is that all of this separation was openly hostile.

And yet in one moment, as Christ utters his last breath and the curtain separating man from God tears from top to bottom, he destroys the barrier dividing Jew from Gentile.

Because of the extremity of their prior separation, God gets glory in their unity.

They make that point that for most readers, it is likely that diversity is both moreimportant than they’ve considered and simultaneously less important than they have considered.

It’s more important because . . .

It is the grand witness to the truth of the gospel (Eph. 3:10).

Far from “nice to have,” diversity should be one of the most obviously supernatural characteristics of a local church. The visible bond of our unity shows off the power of an invisible gospel.

It’s less important because . . .

It is not an end in itself.

Diversity is the effect, not the substance. The thermometer, so to speak, not the thermostat. It informs us of the spiritual temperature of our congregation, but has little ability to inflect maturity. Diversity in a local church matters very little in and of itself. It matters enormously to the extent that it advertises a deeper reality of gospel unity.

They go on to define “diversity” as “any multiplicity of backgrounds where unity is possible only through the gospel.”

I found their reminders helpful—not as a way of downplaying or distracting from an emphasis on ethnic diversity, but as a way to build upon it. In other words, we should pray for more diversity, not less.

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