This past Sunday I lead our church through praying for diversity. A number of you asked for the recording. A link is provided below. The sound quality isn’t great, so I’ve also included a transcript for you. May God continue to help us reflect the unifying power of the gospel through the diverse of our church family.
Good morning. At the start of this year, I laid out four things that I want us to be praying about together as a church. They all start with the letter D and so we’ve been calling them “The 4 D’s”. They are: discipleship, diversity, deeds and dollars. To help us pray through these categories, I’ve asked various individuals to share testimonies related to the category. Two weeks ago we heard from Josh Nussbaum, who shared how our church is helping him grow as a disciple of Jesus. Today, we are going to pray for diversity. There are many people I could have asked to share about this. However, I actually want to share with you myself this morning about this prayer request. I want you to hear my voice, because this has been a personal journey for me.
There are things that I have always believed about diversity, that I hope all Christians believe. I have always believed that God created diversity. He made people different from one another on purpose. Saying you are color blind is actually very sad, because God made very colorful people and that should be celebrated. I have also always believed that we are all one in Jesus. I’ve always had these values, but in the last 10 years or so, as I’m learning to listen to people who are different from me, I’m realizing more and more how diversity goes so much deeper.
I’ve been learning how listening is so crucial. My understanding has grown so much since I realized that I don’t understand. As I’ve leaned into listening to people who are different from me, not making assumptions, not trying to explain their situation and not trying to correct their perspective, God is using these conversations to help me understand how much I haven’t understood in the past. It’s been tough, but it’s been good.
Through learning to listen, I’ve been learning to grieve. Christians can be really bad at grieving. We feel like we need to explain hard things away or put a happy spin on it. However, there is a book in the Bible called Lamentations that is all about grieving the brokenness of our world. Few things show how broken this world is more than the fragmentation that exists based upon things like socio economic status or race, or ethnicity.
As I’ve been listening and grieving, I’ve been learning that this is not a fringe issue, this is not a social issue, nor as many people say a “political issue”. No, this is an issue where the gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake. A well respected Christian leader recently came out and said that we need to stop talking about things like racial reconciliation, because it takes the attention away from the preaching of the gospel of Jesus. This comment fails to understand that if preaching of the gospel isn’t bringing together different and diverse people, then it is not the gospel that we see being preached in the New Testament. The preeminent challenge of the early church was racial division between Jews and Gentiles. Their hatred was deep, generational and oppressing. This is how the gospel was preached into that context:
Jesus, he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. (Eph 2:14 ESV)
So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly place (Eph 3:10 ESV)
In Ephesians 3 the word that is used for “manifold” is the Greek word pulupoikilos, which literally means “different colors”. The saving wisdom of God is made known through God’s church having different colors in it, because there is only one force in the universe that is powerful enough to do that; the gospel of Jesus Christ. Diversity is not a political issue. It is not a social issue. Different people being brought together as equals, as one, diverse people being brought together in unity: is a gospel issue.
So I want to lead us through a prayer where we thank God for diversity. Where we confess how we’ve failed as a church. And by we I mean we as in the American church. And I want to pray that God would continue to help us grow here locally in this gospel value of diversity.
God, thank you that you have made us different from one another. Thank you that you did not make one gender, but two. Thank you that you did make one race, but many. Thank you that we do not speak one language, but you can be praised in many languages. We thank you for the beauty of diversity.
But Lord, we confess that we have taken these beautiful differences and made them a means of oppression. Our country has a dark history of racism that has continual and ongoing effects today. We confess this sin and we cry out for your mercy. We confess the sin of sexism and allowing men and women to be treated differently. We confess how often conversations about diversity can be marked by judgmentalism. We confess a lack of listening. We confess the assertion of opinion instead of hearing from our hearts. God, we lament how we have used our differences to bring division. That is not how you intend things to be, but that is what has happened. We lament this. We grieve this. We grieve this as a country and we grieve this as your church. This is not how you have intended things to be and yet your church has so often been silent on this issue and allowed it to be co-opted by political pundits. We confess that as sin. We lament this. We grieve this.
We pray that you would unite us. We pray that you would bring us to your cross, which equalizes all of us. It is at your cross that we all equally receive your love and, as we receive that love ,we then love one another. And so Lord, we pray you would take us to your cross and keep us there. We want our diversity, our ability to appreciate and celebrate our differences, we want that to glorify you as the great God of unity. Lord Jesus we pray, as you prayed on the night before you died on the cross for our sins, we pray that you would make us one as you are one with the Father and Spirit. Unite us, so that the world might see the power of your love that can bring different people together with one shared bond. The bond of being brothers and sisters in the family of God through faith in Jesus. Lord, would you do this and would you start this with each one of us individually.