Diversity is a popular word as of late. Diversity is important, because often what most changes the heart is engagement with people who are different than ourselves.
But what do I see in many churches? …
… People who don’t like those who are different from themselves.
They view “others” with suspicion. Most will say diversity is important, but they mean racial diversity, not cultural diversity or diversity of thought. Having more people of color in our churches is more easily accepted — but only if they agree with us on everything and are similar culturally.
Often in churches I see a deep-seated unwillingness to listen to others who think differently, as if incorrect doctrine is a disease we might easily catch.
Sometimes being perfectly “right” can mean being wrong– because we express things in ways that are wrong. We can harden our hearts and not have compassion. We can treat sinners like the Pharisees did rather than like Jesus did. Sinners were drawn to Jesus. They liked hanging out with him. Jesus met people where they were at, and His loving compassion transformed the people around them. Sadly, that’s apparently not true of some evangelicals.
I’m not saying we need to change our minds… but we could listen. We could begin to understand why others may think differently. Once we have a better understanding, we can engage with compassion.
The heart changes through engagement with people who see the world differently from us when we are open to listen and to learn. As the writer of Hebrews quotes, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb 4:7). Sometimes we can hear God’s voice in unexpected places and ways. Will we recognize it when we do?