A Beautiful Mosaic
My oldest son just turned seven years old. For his birthday, he received the promise of a trip to Plains, Georgia. What’s in Plains, Georgia, you ask? Well, it is the hometown and current residence of President Jimmy Carter. My sweet seven-year-old is completely enamored with President Carter. He is determined to meet him. In fact, he is engrossed in learning everything he can about our former president. This means that I, too, am learning all about President Carter. In the midst of this presidential exploration, we discovered an article that covered Jimmy Carter’s rise to the presidency. In it was the following quote from a speech he made just prior to his election in October of 1976: “We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”
A beautiful mosaic made up of differences. These words resonated with me. More importantly, this idea stood out to me as being at the heart of the kingdom message—a message that speaks to the diversity of all believers.
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10).
We see throughout the New Testament intentional evidence of diversity, and furthermore, we understand the why behind that diversity through Jesus’s prayer in John 17. Jesus prays for us to achieve unity in our diversity so that the world will know the unconditional love of God and believe. Some of the most beautiful words that Jesus speaks, in my opinion, come in verse 23: “So that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” It is important to Jesus that the world—made up of people from all walks of life—truly know God’s love. And it is in this intersection of love and diversity that the kingdom of God is truly experienced.
What does this mean for us? What does diversity look like?
It looks like intentionality. It is recognizing that we must “become all things to all people so that by all possible means [we] might save some” (1 Cor. 9:19-23). This isn’t always easy, because creating space for someone else’s cultural perspective means purposefully engaging another’s cultural experiences. In his book Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, Mark DeYmaz makes the point that “pursuit of cross-cultural competence moves us beyond ourselves toward a deeper understanding of life from another’s perspective.”  And the understanding of life from the many vantage points that God has created in humanity, in turn, draws us closer to God.
It looks like value. We are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27)—each and every one of us, regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, or even political beliefs—and yet when it comes to kingdom work, I fear that more often than not, we invite others in but ask them to shed, or at the very least diminish, their cultural identities first. Instead, we must respect the image of God in others and value the contributions that each person can make. As Elizabeth Conde-Frazier asserts in her book A Many Colored Kingdom, “When we practice the rearrangement of relationships through even the smallest act of respect and welcome rather than disregard and dishonor, we point to a different system of values and to an alternate model of relationships.”  It is a model that acknowledges the wholeness of a person and their experiences. A model that allows all voices to be heard.
It looks like authenticity. In the story of the woman who anoints the feet of Jesus in Luke 7, we see a picture of authenticity displayed twofold. Not only does Jesus meet this marginalized woman on her own terms, but he does so with the Pharisee as well. Jesus willingly sits and eats with the Pharisee despite the great deal of tension that exists. Jesus receives both of them openly. And, not only do these two very different people bear witness to the message of Christ, but the authentic interaction that occurs in this moment allows for others to witness God Incarnate as well. Once again, Jesus bridges the cultural divide.
And so, if diversity is informed by the coming together of intentionality, value, and authenticity, then how is it experienced? Quite simply, it is experienced through love—the type of love to which Jesus calls us: love of God and others (Matt. 22:34-40). A love so essential that it permeates Scripture and is visible through a multitude of characteristics—kindness, compassion, respect, and investment, to name only a few. In the parable of the Samaritan man, Jesus highlights those qualities as he provides us with an example of what love looks like. But—and this is a pretty important but—the story doesn’t end there. Instead, Jesus concludes his conversation with the expert by saying, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Go and do likewise: it is a directive that speaks just as powerfully to us today as it did thousands of years ago. It calls us to live out our love for God and others in a way that affirms the kingdom of God.
It calls us to welcome, embrace, and celebrate the beautiful mosaic.
 Mark DeYmaz, Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments, and Practices of a Diverse Congregation (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007), 105.
 Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, S. Steve Kang, and Gary A. Parrett, A Many Colored Kingdom: Multicultural Dynamics for Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 172.