Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Diversity and the Call of the Kingdom

[For the next few months, my blog comes from my Page 1 comments in my role as Senior Editor of Youthworker Journal. Check it out at http://www.youthworker.com]


It’s about time.
For all the years I have been involved as a ministry leader, many of us have treated the notion of diversity with kid gloves. We have generally made it mostly about race, or sometimes gender. But it is so much bigger, so much more central to a life of faith. And yet on the list of what being a disciple means, most of us barely have it on our radar screen. And at best it is a low-priority issue.
Looking around today, however, more and more followers of Jesus are finally beginning to read what the Bible actually says, instead of finding ways to mold it into what we want it to say.  
Diversity: different people who have been called to the same family. We are called to be one, those of us from different ages, ethnicities, political parties, communities, nations, tribes and tongues. Perhaps it is time that we who believe that Jesus’ life and message matters need to step front and center and live and teach the Truth that the Scriptures consistently proclaim: all men and women are God’s children, and our differences make us stronger, more grateful, for the magnificence of the God of Creation.
In a world torn apart by convictions and perspectives, where the rich and the poor, the privileged and the vulnerable, the downcast and the encouraged all scramble to find a community where they can love and serve and contribute, the words of the Bible remain our constant guide:
“With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9);
“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood. Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:15-17).

The time has come to recognize that the heart of “discipleship” is aligning ourselves with God’s purpose and work in the world. Isaiah’s prophecy is a wakeup call for every believer, and especially for every Christian leader. We need to help men and women, and boys and girls, to understand that God’s invitation to follow him is so much more than what Dallas Willard calls “the Gospel of sin management.” Being a disciple, or a “learner/follower,” is about the call to do right, seek justice, encouraged the oppressed, and defend the cause and plead the case of those who need our help.
Diversity goes far beyond debates about race and gender. It is at the heart of Jesus’ work and message. Whether it involves learning how to follow Jesus in how we consider the different, the meek, the deaf, the jailed, the dirty, the mean, or the sad, Jesus has gone before us, bringing his message of hope and reconciliation, and we are compelled to follow.
It’s about time!

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