In this excerpt adapted from the course Biblical Principles for Diversity and Reconciliation in Ministry, Dr. Walter R. Strickland II explores diversity in the Bible and why we should pursue racial reconciliation.
Why do we pursue God’s plan for diversity?
We confess with the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 that we see through a glass dimly, and that we see like children on this side of the kingdom, and to have a blind spot is not to sin but it is what it means to be human. Only God sees all things with absolute clarity. So in a real sense, to insist that we know all things is an effort to take on the role of God himself.
Our need for one another
Because we see in part, we need brothers and sisters who see God’s Word and God’s world from different perspectives as we seek his will and pursue his mission. In our flesh, especially relating to current events and what have you, we are tempted to believe that we see everything with absolute clarity and it’s others who see things through dimly lit lenses. Could it be that each of us sees in part—and that we see more clearly together than we do apart? This is why we need each other.
We need each other to properly understand our own blind spots. We need each other to understand Scripture more fully. We need each other to discern areas of brokenness where the gospel must be applied. But unfortunately, we rarely reap the benefits of this mutual sharpening because the moment it gets awkward or weird or we feel misunderstood, we run back to our segregated places because our history—not God’s Word, but our history—says that it’s okay.
Imagine if we treated our marriages this way. If we sacrificed our marriage covenants the moment our rough edges, so to speak, began to rub up against each other, then we would never have the opportunity to grow together with our spouse and be conformed to the image of Christ in that relationship.
Test of spiritual maturity
For the life of me, I can’t find another way to pose the question, but perhaps we have not been able to come together across the racial and ethnic backgrounds because we are not as spiritually mature as we think we actually are. The way I see it, in our country, in America, the struggle to build bridges across racial lines is perhaps the premier litmus test for spiritual maturity of our time.
If we see people worshiping together, expressing the “one another’s” of the New Testament across the lines of difference, yes, there is a wonderful visual picture of the gospel, of being able to tear down the dividing wall of hostility on display. But the most important thing that we’re seeing is . . . a people who have been able to heed the apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3–5 in a very particular way. It says this:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
People in multiethnic spaces have been able to, for the most part, put on Christ in such a way that it overcomes historical baggage and heals grudges and forces us to think on behalf of others in new and profound ways. This requires those who are in the dominant culture to repent and those who are in subdominant cultures to forgive because—I’m aware that I’m asking for something supernatural from everybody—we can’t just keep dealing each other blows because, at some point, someone is going to have to stand up and absorb a final blow, ending the cycles of brokenness and hurt.
Our best example
But I’m glad we actually have an example of somebody who absorbed a blow for us because someone—who is Jesus—suffered punishment that was not his own. And on the third day, he rose again, and he was victorious over death. And all of us are the beneficiaries of this. All of us are beneficiaries of the fact that the bigotry and the narrow-mindedness and the discrimination that we’ve all experienced is now absorbed and taken on through Christ. And he is now our example of how we can engage each other.
Well, I don’t think that we’ll fully realize the Revelation 7:9–10 picture on this side of the kingdom; that’s God’s job to do when he returns. But in our efforts to do so even now, it’s not about quite achieving the goal but about the work that is done on us in the process.
So why should we consider diversity in the Bible and talk about racial reconciliation?
Because the process makes us more like Jesus.
Diversity in the Bible: questions to ponder
Here are some helpful questions for us as we begin to understand or to help us understand how to apply this to our lives:
- What passages might you preach or teach differently or nuance more carefully with God’s restorative mission that includes racial reconciliation in view?
- What experiences, either in your family of origin or your political background or your denominational affiliation, might have established a blind spot regarding racial background in your own eyes?
- What culture is normalized in your own ministry?
Hopefully, these questions will be helpful as you explore diversity in the Bible further and seek to apply God’s vision for all people.
Learn more from Dr. Walter R. Strickland II in the Mobile Ed course Biblical Principles for Diversity and Reconciliation in Ministry as he discusses the importance of developing a multicultural vision of every tribe, tongue, and nation in your ministry.
- Unity in Diversity: The Promise and Fulfillment in Scripture
- The Importance of Racial Diversity in the Church
- Want to Preach on Racial Reconciliation? Start in Revelation
- Racial Diversity: John Stott on What It Means to Be a Peacemaker
- Shepherding Your Church on Race: 5 Practical Tips
- Weep with Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation by Mark Vroegop
- The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation by Russell D. Moore and Andrew T. Walker
- One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology by Jarvis J. Williams