Sunday, June 25, 2017

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Diversity in a Congregation?

I was struck by something odd I recently heard from a political commentator. He asserted that the reason Americans are not supportive of President Obama’s health care plan is “because he is black.” The implication was that if the president had been white (I thought he was half white …), we would have no problem with the new plan.

Political implications and ignorance aside, this got me thinking about the big D word: “Diversity.”

In academia, diversity is heralded as a landmark achievement that solves all woes. But if a campus was truly diverse, how would we know? What quantitative metric should we use? What standard?

For those in the faith, the question is more pragmatic: What does it mean to be a diverse congregation? In particular, what about Messianic congregations? And is diversity a good thing anyway?

For one thing, diversity clearly does not mean “theologically diverse,” particularly in the postmodern sense that basically any old theological view is OK. Paul spent valuable space in his letters warning against those who taught distortions to the gospel (1 Timothy 1:3-7). I think it is healthy to study theology from a variety of viewpoints, and loving discussion aimed at truth and transformation is always welcome. But in the end, being accepting of every wind of doctrine (as some Messianic groups have done) is dangerous, foolish, and contrary to the gospel.

But diversity in other areas should be very welcome in the local congregation. The Scriptures paint a vivid picture of the Lamb (i.e., Yeshua) being worshiped in heaven as one who has “redeemed people for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation,” and has made them a “kingdom of priests” (Revelation 5:9-10). Note that these priests cannot possibly all be Levites (as per the Mosaic Law), or even all Jews, but must refer to a “mixed multitude.”

The local congregation is no exception. Ideally, She should be multi-generational. She should have both men and women. She should have a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds (i.e., Galatians 3:28). She hopefully will consist of “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” because this is not only what God desires in heaven, but also this diversity gives us the best possible representation to reach our community with the gospel.

And of course, she should have Jewish people! The promises of God are not closed to any ethnic group or gender or class, but all who proclaim and submit to the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah are welcome into His community.

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