What About Diversity?

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“Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 11:19-20, NIV). 

springs of living watersprings of living water

In the early days of The New Testament, it was mostly Jewish people that belonged to The Church until the persecution at that time, caused the believers to scatter. After Stephen’s execution, (Acts 6-8) most of the “Jews that believed,” (John 8:31, John 12:11) left the main Jerusalem area where the Church/Temple was first located. I think that was somewhere in the mid 30s (CE).

Now, in Acts 9 we see that Philip, John, and Peter, all reached out to The Samaritans. It appears that this outreach started happening very shortly after the mid 30s time period. In the late 30s, Paul, who was known for severe persecution of The Jewish Christ-followers, received his vision and calling in Damascus, of all places! Paul ended up spending some time trying to process what had happened to him, as some commentators say, “somewhere in Arabia.”

In Acts 10-11, we see where Peter’s witness to that Roman family in Caesarea, in or around 40 CE; and it appears that this witness of Peter’s there was the very beginning of cultural diversity, in what was once a strictly Jewish “denomination”: “The Church at Antioch”

The development of God’s plan is still further disclosed in the events recorded in this section, which describe the same phenomenon of Gentile conversion, but in different circumstances. In this case, it was not an Apostle that was God’s chosen instrument, but a few unknown and unrecognized disciples, who were fleeing north from persecution, and had reached the gay, volatile city of Antioch. The hand of the Lord was with them, as it certainly had been with Peter, and large numbers of converts were gathered into a church. In this instance, also, the mother church felt bound to make inquiry, so they sent forth Barnabas, Acts 11:22.

Barnabas was a good man, and his unaffected piety enabled him to recognize at once that this movement was of God. All the signs of true conversion were present. He saw undoubted evidence of the grace of God, and pleaded with the new converts for tenacity and constancy. The secret of perseverance is in the phrase to cleave unto the Lord, Acts 11:23. In addition to the other beautiful traits of his character, we must add the spirit of tender brotherhood that carried Barnabas to Tarsus to find Saul.” (F.B. Meyer Bible Commentary).

Diversity might not sound like a pleasant concept for today’s Christians. The ever-increasing struggles and sorrows that sometimes present with “immigration,” have in some cases made a laughing-stock of well-meaning Christians, everywhere.  We are all becoming well-aware of all the hoopla in the news these days about “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “acceptance,” so that people can feel “safe” and “included” in our society.

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But it is a mistake to conclude that this is just a problem with “the Church, whatever way one chooses to define it. I recall a time not so long ago when someone I was acquainted with had just gotten a community award for “promoting diversity,” and then about two weeks later, this person found out I was a Christian, and they have not spoken to me since. There is absolutely nothing I can do about it – except pray; but not just pray for that person, I likely need more prayer than they do. Its not like I am “Mister Perfect!

Moral politics, or as some would say it: “political correctness” is the bane of modern society. There is no one on any side of that fence who can live up to whats being published in Big Media today. Now, its just a case of who gets caught and who gets away with it. (usually it’s the person with the most money). Another example of my own personal experience would be not too long ago when a “friend” that I had no reason to mistrust, stole something of mine one day when I wasn’t home. Now what they stole isn’t important, as it was only worth around five dollars, but I had ample proof that this person stole the item in question, and I decided to just take it to the Lord in prayer. We are told to “pray for those who despise us”:

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Mat 5:44, NIV) and years before this, the Psalmist echoed these words of Jesus, almost as if prophesying about it, as he reflected: “freed us from our enemies. His love endures forever.” (Psalms 126:34, NIV). It seems that God gives us “freedom” as a result of praying for our “enemies.”

I was a little irritated that these were the kind verses coming to me as I prayed for this thief; whom I thought was my friend. But it did occur to me how that this person was really pinching the pennies, and struggling very hard to complete a course they had to take for their work. I asked God: “Why on earth should I do anything for this person if they will not even admit what they did?” God answered me something like this: “Now, David, you know that this person is really struggling right now, have you thought about why you don’t smell any food cooking from their place this last few days around supper time, like you used to smell?

So to make a long story shorter, I decided that this person likely hadn’t had a good meal for a while, and was likely in their little hovel, chawing down a few bread crusts and stale Mac & Cheese. I ended up cooking them a huge 3 course meal, with enough to last 4 days, and the look of guilt on their face when I took the food to their door would have made a really good photograph. But when I saw how touched my friend was, and how genuinely grateful the response was, all I could think of to say was “I know what its like.”

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Now, I started this article by talking about “diversity,” and that’s what we are still talking about here. This person, neighbor though he be, was very diverse from me, and likely from almost everyone in the neighborhood; but instead of exercising my “rights” and seeking my “right” for “compensation,” I made the decision to exercise the “right” of Christ, and to cook a person in need a meal; and showed a little sympathy for their plight; and this has resulted in a new friend.

Are we to fumigate about “immigration,” and to stigmatize the people who are so different? Different culture, different belief, different almost anything? Is that what scripture teaches? I have another friend who once said to me when I asked about his thoughts on “immigration” and all the new people coming into our church. He just said: “well, over there, its dangerous to preach the gospel, but here, not so much,”  and I am thinking that this is my friend’s way of looking at it as an opportunity. Do we not serve a God who turns all crises into an opportunity? (Rom 8:28).

I don’t think it helps anyone to pronounce sentence upon others and look to themselves as some kind of a model “christian,”for  we are told in Scripture: “So let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor 10:12). Christ is our model; a true Christian will imitate Him, and plant their feet in His steps.

We may professedly believe every point of present truth, and know all prophecy; but unless we can practice these truths it will avail no one, anything. We are not to condemn others; we cannot name the name of Christ and be the “older brother” of Luke 15:28, no, this is not our work; but we should love one another and pray for one another. When we see one err from the truth, then we may weep over him as Christ wept over Jerusalem. (Mat 23:37, Luke 13:34). Let us consider closely what our heavenly Father in His word says about the erring:

“If a [person] be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1) Do something that they need. Be something that reflects Jesus.

Jesus cares for each one as though there were not another individual on the face of the earth. As Deity He exerts mighty power in our behalf, while as our Elder Brother, and He feels for all our woes. The Majesty of heaven held not Himself aloof from degraded, sinful humanity. We have not a high priest who is so high, so lifted up, that He cannot notice us or sympathize with us, but one who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.{AG 78.5}

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31).

What a stern truth is here spoken! How many there are who boast that they are not in bondage to any one, when they are bound to the most cruel of all tyrants, and are no better than the person/people they are complaining about, and shutting the church doors on! They have placed themselves under Satan’s training, and they treat God’s people as he directs them to. How many there are who hear the word of truth, but hate the message and the messenger, because the truth disturbs them in their deceptive practices! (Isa 4:1).

“I speak that which I have seen with my Father,” Christ continued, “and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” Two classes are plainly brought to view in these words–the children of light, who obey the truth, and the children of darkness, who reject the truth (MS 136, 1899). {5BC 1136.7}

When Elijah was about to leave Elisha, he said to him, “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” [2 Kings 2:9.] Elisha did not ask for worldly honor, for a place among the great men of the earth. That which he craved was a large portion of the spirit given to the one whom God was about to honor with translation. He knew that nothing else could fit him for the work that would be required of him. 

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My fellow Christians: had this question been asked you, what would you have answered? What is the greatest desire of your heart, as you engage in the service of our God? All trials, all afflictions, all peace, all safety, health, hope, life, and success are in God’s hands, and He can control them all for the good of His children. (Rom 8:28, Gen 45:5, Psalms 25:10). It is our privilege to be suppliants, to ask anything and everything of God, submitting our request in submission to His wise purposes and infinite will.

We need not expect all sunshine in this world. Clouds and storms will cluster about us, and we must be prepared to keep our eyes directed where we saw the light last. Its rays may be hidden but they still live, still shine beyond the cloud. It is our work to wait, to watch, to pray, and to believe. We shall prize the light of the sun more highly after the clouds disappear. We shall see the salvation of God if we trust our God in the darkness as well as in the light.

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