Unity or Diversity… or Both?
Last week we’ve had the annual conference with all the Missionaries from our organisation on Madagascar. My wife and I helped organising the week and that is nice because we get to plan when we have breaks and what kind of programme we have. We don’t really like the kind of conferences where you have to sit still and listen to smart people all day long. So, instead we’ve only had a busy programme in the morning. The afternoon was filled with… Sports and leisure.
But, I don’t want to bore you about some kind of conference. I would like to talk a bit more about one of the hot topics as discussed at our conference, namely diversity. In this video I would like to think with you about the way we should look at diversity seen from a biblical perspective.
Okay, the word ‘diversity’ gives me a nervous feeling. In the past we just noticed that a group of people could be very diverse in personality, colour, backgrounds and what not. Today, not using this word is almost synonym to discrimination. If the office staff of a big company doesn’t have enough women, or not enough different colours walking around, this company can bet on it to receive a lot of negative feedback from the media.
Diversity is the buzzword for many groups! We all need to be diverse! How diverse is your organisation?
What Biblical Diversity Isn’t
When I tell people that we are working as missionaries on Madagascar, it works wonders when I also tell that our missionaries come from Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, United States, Canada, South Africa, South Korea, Australia, Madagascar, and France. Oh, people love that! Until they see that most, not all, of these people are pretty white in their faces. Now the questions starts to pop-up of why there aren’t more Africans… And they won’t say it, but what they mean is, more diversity means more black. More colour.
Even though you could say that a group of people with different skin colour is diverse, it doesn’t persé mean that they are so diverse in what they do or say. Go to the Netherlands, and you’ll find people with many colours, but many of them hold to the same Dutch culture.
Biblical diversity is not about more women in a group or more people from a minority group. It is not having to talk the same language as the majority or minority. It is not having to muffle the extravert who likes to speak in order to give the introvert a change to talk, something many of them do not really want anyway. The introvert rather sits in the back and will try to make his voice heard differently. Many of them are creative enough to voice their ideas without being in the centre of attention. Biblical diversity doesn’t need a forced mixture of people. It doesn’t need to push the qualified worker aside in order to let a less capable person do the job.
Also, biblical diversity doesn’t need to push aside someone’s cultural habits. During our conference there were guests from the States to help with a children programme. With them came a young girl of 14. My daughter quickly made friends, and they had a great time together. Now diner time came, and my daughter wanted to sit with her. I mean, that is what girls do right? Instead, she got sent away with the message that she should go and sit elsewhere because the table was only for guests. My daughter was very tired and had been on her toes because of all the different attitudes and cultures she had to deal with. Sending her away, in a rather harsh way, was the last drop. She said she wasn’t going to obey because in the Netherlands we don’t do stuff like that. She added that she didn’t want to be rude, but, she said, being Dutch means that she is direct.
Okay I admit, she shouldn’t have behaved like that, not even in the Netherlands. Oh well, totally in line with the culture of Madagascar, I went to the person and, as the authority figure of the family, I sincerely apologised for my daughter’s behaviour. However, later that day, another foreign guest came to me, and started to utter his worries. He said, that my daughter’s saying, that one about being Dutch, basically undermined all that what we had discussed that week, namely… You’ve guessed it! Diversity. Apparently, diversity wasn’t so much about different cultures, different feelings, tolerance, but more about more Malagasy, and less European.
What Does the Bible Teach?
Today, the focus on diversity can become its own god. People start to worship diversity itself instead of the One who created that diversity in the first place. A lot of attention is being given on the differences in the groups. Like I said, diversity seems to emphasise the need of having as many colours together as possible. We need to be as different as possible, but at the same time one outburst of emotions is considered as the capital sin which ruins all.
No surprise that God is more concerned with unity.
endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
The Bible teaches us that our differences are not what defines us as the children of God. No, those who put their trust in Jesus are first and foremost children of God, and that is the way we should define ourselves in the first place. Our differences like race, personality, and culture is something we can celebrate, and something we need to tolerate. But most important, we are called to embrace it in our effords to be really one in Jesus.
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Do we Need to do Away with our Differences?
Do we need to throw away our differences? Nope! I love this text in Revelation 7
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
How cool is that! In the end, every different nation, people, culture, and language will be together, and we will all praise God. The Lord is not doing away with the differences, instead He is gathering us all, and we will praise Him in our languages. The diversity of creation gives glory to the most high God!
So, what to do with our differences in the here and now? Like it said, we should embrace it and at the same time we should try to be one in Christ. That doesn’t mean that we always need to agree on all things. That doesn’t mean that the more outspoken cultures need to back off all the time. We need each other in all of our diversity.
We need each other to understand our own blind spots or shortcomings. We also need each other to understand the Bible better. And we need each other to discover areas of failures and brokenness where the gospel must be applied.
Diversity is what we see in our Creator. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God created all the varieties of plants, animals, insects, landscapes, climates, planets, stars, etc. Creation portraits the Creator’s own diversity. He created humans as male and female, and out of Adam and Eve, all humans came about. Black, white, brown, red hair, blue eyes, you name it and it there. God called all these things ‘very good.’ This diverse creation serves to glorify God and declare his sovereignty to the world. Just read through the Psalms, and you’ll find many songs in which God is exalted through the diversity of His creation.
Forgiveness and Love
I already touched a little on unity. We need to be one in Christ like Jesus was one with the Father. God is our biggest example. Even though we can speak of diversity when it comes to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, they are really one, completely united.
But then again, realising that we, humans, are far from being perfect like God, it can be a bit of a pickle to be one with that brother or sister of whom we think is annoying. I sometimes struggle with the conflict-avoiding behaviour of my Malagasy brothers and sisters. Being direct can actually hurt someone’s feeling quite easily. And don’t let me start about the language barrier. I do speak Malagasy, but not always fluent enough. Sometimes I say dumb things, and then the Malagasy walks away, thinking I was rude. Because many try to avoid conflicts they might end up sitting in their homes, complaining about my behaviour. At the same time, I am muttering about their lack of spine…
This can cause a lot of distrust. In that sense, unity and diversity can feel like opposing powers. Diversity seems to focus on what makes us different, whereas unity focuses on what we share in common. How are we going to find the right balance?
I believe we should not think about unity and diversity as competing with one another. I strongly believe they actually make each other more complete. Like I said, God is perfect in unity and diversity. Without unity or diversity, God is not who He is. Likewise, without unity and diversity, the Church of Christ cannot be the Church of Christ.
And this is precisely why I think Paul wrote the stuff about love in 1 Corinthians 13. For the sake of time I am not going to read the whole chapter. I will just highlight a few verses.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (AMP)
Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail].
I am blessed to have many Malagasy brothers and sisters who are just very patience with me. They choose to assume that I didn’t mean wrongly. Even though they are from a very sensitive culture, they try not to be. Likewise, I try to be mild, I try to think the best of them.
Not all is Good
We both celebrate our differences and try to learn from each other. Some cultural aspects are there to stay, because they emphasise God’s greatness. But some other cultural ideas have to go because they undermine the idea of unity in Christ.
I would say that my Dutch mentality of always having to have a waterproof plan for the next months to come, should be a bit less important. But at the same time, it would be nice to see the Malagasy try a little harder to keep track on time. You see, when someone tells me that he wants to visit me in the morning, I make sure to have time… If that person then comes in the late afternoon because he had to do some groceries in the morning. Well, that is annoying.
That last thing is just a silly example because there are bigger problems in both the Dutch and Malagasy culture that need to be addressed. We, Christians from richer countries, shouldn’t behave like the saving angels all the time. We come here with bags full of money because those poor Malagasy (which many of them literally are) can’t take care of themselves. At the same time, Malagasy should stop behaving like they can’t do anything right. They are wonderfully creative! The Malagasy church might not have much money, but they are creative enough to support their evangelists and missionaries. I have seen this creativity in action several times. Some started to raise chickens and sell the eggs, and with the money they supported their own pastor or missionary. But as soon as we step in and take over the payments of their evangelists, many let out a sigh of relief, sit back, and become lazy. This is not helpful at all!
Christians should not fall for the worldly ideas of diversity. It is not a wordly invention! God owns it, it was His idea. The only things the world does is twisting this wonderful and biblical idea into something suppressing.
Even though Christians are all unique, we are united in the fact that we have been made in God’s image. We are also united in our need for salvation which we can only get through Jesus. The real Catholic Church, by which I mean the universal Church, actually transcends our differences and unites all of us under Christ. That unity becomes even more beautiful when we look at our diversity. We cannot build on unity alone, and we cannot build on diversity alone. The two belong to each other and are only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit, who unites us in Christ. Building a church on only diversity or only unity will cause a lot of trouble, and it will quickly lead to errors in the church itself but also in our societies.
Iron sharpeneth iron; So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Don’t fall in the trap of thinking that we forcefully need to add more diversity in the group. Sure, we can’t disqualify someone on the basis of him or her being different. But at the same time we shouldn’t try to put someone in charge of finance just because we want a woman, an Asian looking guy, or someone who looks that a Hell’s Angel in that position. The one who is gifted should be in charge, not the one who with the most black, yellow, or white skin.
Just like a team in the mission field. Do we want to see people be saved, or do we want to satisfy and convince the world around us. “Look at us, with our wonderful diverse group…” In the meantime, messing up the ultimate goal of saving people because we interrupted the dynamics in the group. We need to be honest! Sometimes it is better to keep things like they are. Do we have a group of which most are white? I don’t see a problem. If we have room for someone else in that same group we do not necessarily have to find the most deviant person we can. We need to be wise.
Years ago, I was a youth leader in our home church. Because we wanted to go into the mission field we’ve looked for someone to replace me. That person came sooner than I expected. I knew this brother for a long time already, and he was very qualified. At the same time we could be honest towards each other. We shouldn’t work together. His ideas, tactics, and personality was way different than mine. We love each other, and we would help each other always! We are one in Christ, but it would have felt as two captains on one ship. I helped him to take over the wheel of the ship, and after that I gave him my blessings! The elders of our church were a bit shocked. They thought that it would have been more biblical to work together. No, we both said. We love each other enough to realise we shouldn’t do that. And that is okay!
What do you Think?
So, tell me what you think about this idea of diversity. Maybe you can post some other Bible verses in the comments below? That would be cool! I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Remember! I am mostly active on my Odysee channel. You’ll find a link to that channel in the description of this video. You might also like to check out my new channel on GabTV. I already had an account on Gab, but now I also upload my videos there. Check it out in the description. Not only that, but since this week I also have a channel on Flote, and I already had an account on Bitchute… You can find me everywhere 😉
You see, YouTube removed another video from my channel. It was a video from Kent Hovind which I’ve uploaded many years ago. Something about misinformation concerning food. It was his seminar titled: The Garden of Eden. This kind of parenting makes me a bit suspicious of big tech companies like TheirTube, I mean: YouTube… To say at least. That is the reason I have these other channels as well. You can look them up in the description of the video, or on my website.
Anyways, thank you very much for your prayers and support! You can look in the description of this video or on my website to find out how you can help me. Also, you’ll find a link there to both the Dutch and English transcripts of this video.
God bless you, thank you for watching, and Lord willing we’ll see each other in my next video!