In the 21st century, social media writes new narratives and storylines almost minute by minute, expressing what this or that person thinks, believes, desires, supports, likes, dislikes, all the while advocating what they think should be the storyline or worldview everyone must follow.  Chief among today’s social media narratives is diversity.  Diversity: a word loaded with meaning in our world, in our news, in our schools, in our laws, and in us. What does the Bible tell us about human diversity?

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26–31, ESV)

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place. (Acts 17:26, ESV)

When we gather in a church, we do so as a part of the great story of human life, existence, and purpose. We gather as a part of the grand narrative that the God of the Bible who created the universe is writing and ruling. The Bible declares that all human beings are a part of God’s story, the narrative which we call the Christian world-and-life-view. This classic “four chapter” biblical story, the metanarrative of human life, helps us outline God’s vision of dignity in diversity.

The first chapter is one of beauty, that God creates human diversity.  In fact, human diversity is both God-ordained and God-designed. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, explains how the universe, the earth, and human life began. The all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present God, the God who never had a beginning, spoke the universe into existence. He formed and formatted the heavens, the oceans, the seas, and the earth according to his design. He fashioned this tremendously magnificent planet Earth, this great sphere rotating in space, just for us.

After the creation of the heavens and the earth, plants, and animals, last he created the crown of his creation, mankind. No other part of creation is said to be made in the image of God, not even the angels—no other! The Bible calls the first man Adam, which means “man” or “mankind.” And from man, from Adam, God made woman. God made mankind, male and female, and he made them in the image of God. Here we see that the first instance of God-designed human diversity is male and female.

The Bible teaches that the existence of the human race is not an accident. Human beings did not haphazardly emerge because of chance or random events. The only sovereign, all-powerful, and all-wise God purposefully designed mankind for this world.

Genesis 1 shows us God created mankind as male and female, and Genesis 2 shows the order of the creation of male and female. Genesis 2 shows that God began all of humanity with one man, Adam: “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). The apostle Paul preaching in Athens, Greece, says, “And he [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”

Note that Adam’s color is not listed anywhere in the entire Bible! Isn’t that interesting? In a world and a country where we make so much of what our skin color is, the skin color of the first man is never mentioned. Of our first parents, J. Daniel Hays notes: “Adam and Eve are not Hebrews or Egyptians or Canaanites. And they become the father and mother of all peoples” (From Every People and Nation, pp. 47—48). Every color of human being began with the making of one man, Adam, and from Adam and Eve came the DNA to generate every color represented in the human race: Middle Eastern, Asian, African, European, North, Central, and South American—all share the same first parents.

Genesis tells us that God delights in his diverse creation. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). God takes pleasure in his creation. In the book of Job, as God reveals his power and wisdom, he speaks of the weather, the oceans, and the animals with striking detail, demonstrating that God is thoroughly acquainted with all that he has made.  Nonetheless, only man is made in God’s image.

God loves the diversity of all of his creation. God loves all the different skin colors of people.

In a seminar several years ago the subject of ‘race’ and color came up. The professor made the comment, “I sometimes use the argument that I don’t see color.” Several other students shared their thoughts, and when my perspective was asked, I said, “I never use that argument. God gave me the color of my skin, just as he gave you yours. Why do I need to be ashamed of what God has created?”

God’s plan for humanity is obedience and righteousness and justice in right relationship with him, but daily we see how men, women, boys, and girls live in the opposite direction. This leads us to Chapter 2; the Fall radically affected human diversity. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God in Genesis 3, the consequence of death which God promised came into the world, affecting each and every one of us through sin.

Sin is the reality that we miss the mark, that we fall short of what God created us to be, which is in right relationship with him. Genesis 10 teaches us the establishment of nations after the lineage of Noah and his children, and in Genesis 11 we see God’s judgment when he confuses the languages and scatters the nations across the earth because of the sin of the people.

History repeatedly shows men sinning against men. Cain killed his brother Abel and became the first murderer. The people of Israel were oppressed as slaves in Egypt under the tyranny of Pharoah. Wars have plagued civilizations for centuries, tribes fighting against tribes, one ethnic group seeking dominance over others. I am old enough to remember the genocide tragedy that occurred in Rwanda, where around 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were killed by the Hutus.

The USA is an incredible country, and one that I am happy and proud to live in. And yet, the history of the United States is littered with men sinning against men. Slavery was a tremendous stain on the history of this nation, as was segregation. The treatment of the Native Americans was atrocious. Asian Americans fought and served in wars for the US as far back as the Revolutionary War and the Civil War while also enduring segregation, and yet much of that reality has been left out the annals of history in this country.

Sin in people leads to sinful thoughts, laws, and actions. In pursuing a segregated life, laws were formed in this country where water fountains and public restrooms were established so that a person of one color did not drink from the same fountain as a person of another color. Men formed such laws based on so called ‘race.’

I am not a fan of the term ‘race’ as its used in our modern times because we all bleed red blood and regardless of skin color, black, white, Asian, Indian, Australian, Romanian, Pakistani can all share the same blood type. When organ donors are needed, blood type and body size are two of the major criteria; the color of our skin is not.

Not only did our government legislate laws permitting such a culture, but also many, many churches supported the laws of slavery and segregation, bringing incredible dishonor to the reality of God-ordained and God-designed human diversity. My grandfather had to go to the back of a restaurant in our hometown, and put his hand through a window to get his takeout order because he was not allowed to go in and sit down in the restaurant because of the color of his skin.  Nor, of course, are such offenses against God and man limited to simply the USA. Apartheid (meaning ‘apartness’) was established in South Africa in 1948 to create legalized segregation between whites and non-whites.

Why? Why? Because of sin. And sin affects every color of the human race. No one is exempt from the indwelling and influence of sin in this world. Apart from God’s intervention, mankind perpetually sins against mankind.

But we have good news! Through redemption, King Jesus begins making all things new, including the good of human diversity for his kingdom purposes. In the third chapter of the biblical story, the chapter in which we live, divine redemption breaks into history in an unprecedented way, changing men, women, boys, and girls from the inside out.  Jesus Christ mercifully intervenes in the sinfulness of man against man. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Jesus is the new man, the Last Adam, and he comes to make men new. Jesus comes to make things right. In his first coming, Jesus came to inaugurate, establish, and build his kingdom.  Remember that! Consider Matthew 4:15—17:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The kingdom of heaven is present with the person of Jesus Christ.

In John 4, Jesus makes time to talk with a Samaritan woman. The Jews despised the Samaritans and considered them half-breeds. Yet, Jesus, a Jew, talks with the woman of Samaria and offers her the water of everlasting life.

Consider the example of the gospel’s impact on the Jews and Gentiles in Rome. The apostle wrote his letter to the church at Rome to prepare the Gentile Christians for the return of Jewish Christians to Rome. The emperor Claudius had died and his edict which kicked the Jews out of Rome in 49 A.D. died with him. To the church at Rome, composed of Gentile and Jewish Christians, Paul writes:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised [Jews] to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” (Romans 15:8-12)

After the resurrection, Jesus tells his disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” As the New Testament church and then the early church carried that promise forward, they were incredibly ethnically diverse! Simply read Acts 2 and notice the different ethnicities present and the different languages all brought together by the power of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the gospel.

The gospel breaks down the dividing walls, walls of color against color, of ethnicity versus ethnicity. Paul teaches the Ephesian church that in Christ, Jew and Gentile are one:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-16)

The Church exists to show the world what kingdom of Christ living can look like, even if not perfectly, on this side of eternity. We are Christ’s model to an unbelieving, warring, tribalistic world what real family, real unity, and real community should and can look like when Christ is worshiped as Lord and Savior. The Church of Jesus Christ exists to make disciples and to be the light of the world which means that Christ’s kingdom reality will speak into and impact, to whatever degree God allows: families, neighborhoods, friendships, work, ethics, laws, and the list goes on.

The kingdom of Christ advances through God’s renewed image-bearers who are kingdom disciples. Disciples are called first to Christ and subsequently to all other areas of life by intentionally living according to Christ’s lordship and sovereignty as defined and explained in his Word, the church’s standard: the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  Disciples are called to live in such a way that the world sees how things are supposed to be.

My college discipleship group meets once a year to talk about our lives, to counsel each other, and pray for one another. We have done this going on 26 years! Two black and brown brothers and three white brothers make up the group. Several times, when we’ve been out to eat as a group, people have stopped to ask, “Are you all a sports group?” Think about that. Why are they asking the question? Because it does not seem normal for a group of black and white men to be in deep discussion or congregating with each other in public. But we serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are part of his body the Church.

How the Church of Jesus Christ treats people of all colors is vital! How else will people who do not know Christ know what true community, what real fellowship, is if we don’t model it before the watching world? Therefore, parents who confess Christ as Lord, it is important that you teach your children that God created all people and all colors for his glory.

The kingdom of Christ is to make inroads into every sphere of influence in this world until Christ returns to consummate all of time and history. God is active in his creation.  He is orchestrating the purification of his universe through the salvation of mankind and the redemption and restoration of the earth.  The Kingdom of God is growing, and this is to be evidenced and pursued intentionally by his disciples as we live every day.  The Spirit of God living inside of God’s disciples uses us to reflect the reality of God and the work and reality of Jesus in all areas of our lives, regardless of our skin color.

King Jesus wants your light to shine before other people, before all people (Matt. 5:16).  Jesus came to build his church, a people for himself from every tribe and language and people and nation.

The last chapter of the biblical story is the greatest: the banquet. There is a great banquet in the future for all who have trusted Jesus Christ to be the only Savior and Lord. This banquet will be the time of the grand renewal and glory of all things, which means no more racism, no more oppression, no more one ethnic group seeking or claiming superiority over others. No more human disdain of a person’s color, heritage, or culture. No more death, no more cancer, no more disease. No more war, no more breaking laws, no more fear, no more poverty, no more classism. No more men thinking they are superior to women, or women believing they are superior to men, no more loneliness. No more sin!

Community and unity will be perfected forevermore, and it shall never end. Revelation 5:9—10 proclaims:

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Revelation 19:6-9 expands:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”–for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Church, go and live as disciples and ambassadors of King Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. The Holy Spirit is with us to show the watching world how to really celebrate and live out human diversity.

Terence is the Ministries Pastor of McLean Presbyterian Church. The eldest of three children, Terence grew up in the foothills of North Carolina and comes from about five generations of Baptist pastors. While at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Terence became involved in a ministry called Campus Outreach, where he gained a passion for discipleship. He went to seminary twice at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) Charlotte and RTS Washington, D.C. He also spent a number of years working with the Crossnore School, a children’s home in the mountains of North Carolina.

Meet Terence