Do you ever wonder why we are so in love with diversity but it doesn’t seem to love us back? We talk about diversity at length, especially in the United States. Maybe we love to talk about it so much because we are afraid to actually work for it. Oh sure, we want it… but look around and tell me how many truly diverse communities you can identify. Unfortunately, not many. We lack hammer, brick, mortar, and anything else necessary to actually build together.
Diverse communities are often romanticized by the masses but truthfully obtained by the few. Maybe right now the idea of diversity triggers “racial diversity” in our minds, and while race is included in the picture, it does not constitute the entire scope of what it means to be diverse. A diverse community is one made up of people of different races but also different sexes, generations, cultures, beliefs, traditions, and even preferences.
Something as complex as a diverse community will not happen organically. Like any other beautiful architecture, it will not build itself. Not only does it take intention but it takes tenacity – for it will be one of the most difficult things one could ever set out to build.
Why is it so difficult? Well, because it will require great sacrifice from all involved, and at times some will have to give more than others and others will suffer more than their counterparts. The measure of loss will surpass the cost to build a homogeneous community, and for this reason, many choose not to build.
I am NOT SAYING that diverse communities have higher callings than those that look very similar in one way or another. What I am saying is that they require much more of those who set out to build them and live in them. In fact, if it were left up to me, being in an environment with sports fans in their 30’s and 40’s who love watching West Wing and like eating southern cooking is where I would spend the majority of my time. It’s comfortable for me, it’s easy for me, and it really won’t ever cost me anything. We could easily share in the brokenness of life together and walk things out and really live community together BUT it would be a shadow of the fullness of walking with a group of people who are constantly challenging me in ways that only those unlike myself are able to.
The question is, are you in love with the idea of diversity or are you prepared to marry the calling? Even though the idea of marriage has been diluted in our society, in its fullness, it is the most sacred bond we can make on this earth and the commitment is a serious one. I use it to describe the decision to build diverse community because that is the type of dedication you must be ready to have, or else I can guarantee you at some point you will walk away.
Diversity is painful and sooner or later it will be too hard for very legitimate reasons, but at the very beginning if you are prepared to sacrifice past the pain you won’t be shocked every time this thing costs you something. If you are going to be a part of building a diverse community, you must make a long term commitment to walk it out no matter how much it hurts and no matter what the sacrifice.
Once the cost is counted, which it will always cost more than we plan for, we must begin to practice the lifestyle of grace. Constant and lavish grace is not an option but a mandate. This is active grace that must be filtered through everything, every single thing. I emphasize this because there is nothing that will not come against your decision.
You might very quickly become the minority in the room – and not just the racial minority. There is a white couple in our very young church in their 50’s. Just about everything about them is opposite the majority in the room from their hobbies, income, dining preferences, taste in music, and even the lighting in the room. Yet, they have married our diverse community and burned the boats. They have submitted their lives under a younger black pastor to join in the mission God has for our church. I don’t think a Sunday goes by where they don’t have to Google something I have said, but what they have realized and committed to is that God has placed them to be a part of our community – an active part. They take our college students and young adults into their home constantly, they are at just about every function we put on, they are all in and God is using that to expand our diversity in so many ways that would be impossible without them.
If diversity is what you are after, the only choice is to throw away the romance because it will be painful. Put on the work gloves because it will be hard. Count the cost because it will be expensive and prepare your heart because it will be one of the most life-giving and beautiful things you will ever do.