On Sunday, January 18th at Bethany we recognized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in our morning service as I preached on “The Beauty of Diversity.” Dr. King is currently the subject of the film “Selma,” which depicts his work in urging President Johnson to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. While known as a great Civil Rights leader in our nation, King was first a Baptist minister. Motivated by the teachings of Scripture, he called our national consciousness to recognize the great sin that racism is.
Our recent study of the life of the Apostle Paul has had a great impact on my heart. Paul was a man driven to take the gospel to the known world of his day. A Jew, Paul was called by God to take the gospel to the Gentiles. To be a Gentile was to be any ethnicity that wasn’t Jewish. The Jews were an ethnocentric people — they believed that their race was better than others, and they looked down upon anyone who wasn’t a Jew. Theirs was a distinct form of racism, and Paul shocked many as he proclaimed a great mystery in his preaching. What was that mystery?
“Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 3:2–6 (NIV)
The mystery is that God’s gospel and God’s church are for all people! While God did have a special plan for the Jews, he in no way was overlooking the rest of humanity. In God’s kingdom, all people are welcomed, and are brought together in one body in unity. “He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.” Eph 2:15–16.(NLT)
For this reason, my message Sunday focused on the beauty of diversity, and why God’s church should include all people groups. Sadly, the church today is very homogeneous. As Dr. King said, “Sunday morning at 11 o’clock is the most segregated hour in America.” A recent national study found that the church is, in fact, the last bastion of segregation in our society. That must change! God’s heart is for all his children to walk, work, and worship him together in and through the local church. The gospel is our power to overcome those things that separate us.
As a church this year, our strategic initiative is “Pursuing Multiethnic Diversity.” Some have probably wondered, “Why are we doing that?” The reason is: that is what the Gospel calls us to. Moreover, there is a distinct beauty that comes from worship and fellowship that is multiethnic. John Piper, is his excellent book Let the Nations be Glad! explains:
“The ultimate goal of God in all of history is to uphold and display his glory for the enjoyment of the redeemed from every nation and tribe and people and language. The beauty and power of praise that will come to the Lord from the diversity of these ethnic groups is greater than the beauty and power that would come to him if the chorus of the redeemed were culturally uniform. The reason for this can be seen in the analogy of a choir. More depth of beauty is felt from a choir that sings in parts than from a choir that sings only in unison. Moreover, there is something about God that is so universally praiseworthy and so profoundly beautiful, and so comprehensively worthy and so deeply satisfying that God will find passionate admirers in every diverse people group in the world. Unity in diversity is more beautiful and more powerful than the unity of uniformity.” (p. 222)
May God allow our church to better display his reconciling power as we pursue the beauty of diversity! If you weren’t there Sunday, I want to urge you to listen to the sermon online or get a CD from the church office.