A Bigger Vision for Diversity

by | Feb 8, 2022

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

We likely all know these words by heart. When we say them, perhaps we envision a decline in the prevalence of evil and a revival of righteousness. Or maybe we think of a rise in numbers of those who claim Christ as their savior and dwindling numbers of unreached peoples. And it’s true. These are ways that the kingdom expands and bears fruit and reflects the will of the Father. But we also are presented in Revelation with a vision of God’s consummate kingdom that is beautifully and harmoniously diverse. A kingdom imagination that excludes this is far too narrow. Let’s look ahead together for A Bigger Vision for Diversity.

I am a black woman and, for much of my life, diversity was framed purely as a black and white issue, leaving scores of peoples overlooked. White people were the canvas upon which the rest of us added color. This mindset made changing the hearts of white people key to realizing this kingdom vision. I was ready whenever they were.

But not anymore.

My vision for diversity has been enlarged in many ways through my experience living in Asia for five years and attending Asian-American churches for four years after that. I have become curious about others and have grown comfortable with discomfort. My previously-impoverished imagination saw diversity exclusively in shades of black and white, but now I’ve begun to see these are only two elements in a richly-textured work of art.

We do not best advance diversity by granting that white people have all the power. Usually that takes the form of begging for crumbs of fellowship from their table, then, disappointed, retreating to our communities hungry and resigned to stick to our own. We do not move toward this magnificently diverse vision of the kingdom by saying, “I must seek comfort for myself amongst those like me”—the very charge we level against others—and staying put until the dove of white acceptance returns with an olive branch in its beak. We do not allow our preference for those who look and act like us to harden, calling it a shield, while refusing a glance at those who still would be eager travel partners in our shared pursuit of diversity’s riches.

While I would love for my white brothers and sisters to experience this diverse kingdom  here on earth, I refuse to make them the hinge on which it is realized. A foretaste is here for their taking. I welcome their participation in realizing this aspect of God’s kingdom, but I do not make it dependent on them.

Do not hear me say that the wounds sustained from the either subtly or overtly racist treatment of minorities in majority spaces are not real. Or that there is no balm for them to be found amongst our own. But an unchecked and unchallenged preference for one’s own does ill to whatever heart it’s lodged within and casts a shadow over this glorious feature of God’s kingdom. Even if every white person I know were to be obtuse and unwelcoming, it should not  and could not prevent me from pursuing the riches of diversity in all its beautiful cross-revealing discomfort elsewhere.

In Invitations to Abundance, I write, “In her glory, the bride is a mixed multitude. Her diversity is not a new enterprise, afterthought, or product of an increasingly globalized world. But, rather, God intended it from the establishing of his people. The bride’s beauty is inseparable from her diversity. Her multiculturalism is neither incidental nor accidental.” It is a testament to the power of the cross that a preference for one’s own could be overwritten by a love for the distant other. There are deep wells of divine joy to be found in including others in our vision of God’s kingdom. As we grow in righteousness, healthy diversity does too. This is a mission for us all and we all have work to do.

Editor’s Note – I haven’t read all of Alicia’s forthcoming book yet, but what I’ve read of it is excellent. You can preorder it here.


Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that God would help us see our blindspots when it comes to pursuing diversity.
  2. Pray for willing travel companions in the pursuit of diversity and for patience for those going at a slower pace.
  3. Pray that healthy discomfort would cause us to seek after Jesus and would bear fruit in our posture towards others.

 

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Author

  • Alicia Akins

    Alicia Akins is a writer and recovering expat based in DC. She is a student at RTS Washington and serves as a deaconess in her church, Grace DC Downtown. You can find more of her writing at www.feetcrymercy.com and follow her on twitter @feetcrymercy.

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