Seeing Diversity as a Very Good Thing

Did you know that over 20,000 species of butterflies cover the earth? And more continue to be discovered! I recently read that we share the earth with over 100,000 types of trees, over 27,000 types of earthworms, and quite spectacularly, over 400,000 varieties of beans.

If I was creating beans, I would probably be happy with kidney, chickpeas, black and pinto. Then I’d get bored and move onto squashes or something.

God loves diversity. He’s the true originator of all things. And he would never get bored making a 400,000-bean salad.

So let’s consider a few things about this bean salad we are in (just go with me on this one). First, you and I are each only one type of bean. I must hold my place in order for the salad to taste, resemble, and have the aroma that God was inspired to make. Each individual bean has great value; if Lennon tried to be McCartney, we wouldn’t have the Beatles. If I’m a chickpea and try to be a kidney bean, the meta-salad is greatly altered, and even diminished.

Additionally, if I start thinking chickpeas are more important than, say, green beans — and try to make my way to the top by climbing over said green bean — well, I have greatly discounted the dignity and importance of my neighbour. I am not only wrong in my assumption regarding the green bean’s inherent value, I have also arrogantly judged the creative design of the diverse mixture.

And if I ever decide to gather all the types of beans that are similar to me to one side of the bowl, pushing the dissimilar beans to the other side, I have also interfered with the original concept of the recipe.

I think you get the point of the metaphor. God loves diversity, and has placed a high value on unique individuals sharing common community. Alternately, God doesn’t love separation, oppressive hierarchy, isolation or division.

The Message translation of Galatians 3:28 says: “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.”

If we are disciples of Jesus, we see diversity as a very good thing. We honour variety. We don’t place it in a value system where some are more important than others for whatever trendy, political, cultural, or inherited reason. We celebrate how each individual — just by who they are —supports, defines, and refines our community. We take seriously the call to liberation of those exploited by those who have no respect or consideration for each beautiful creation God has made.

We are all challenged in some way by this call to move outward towards one another. If you have experienced significant pain because of the way a person or part of the culture has devalued you, know that God wholeheartedly celebrates who He made you to be. God invites you, and everyone, into a healing life of turning the table on all places you have felt devalued, through radical love and forgiveness.

Let’s all pray that God continues to open our hearts to those around us, humbly putting each other above ourselves. Ask God for eyes that don’t close in fear when we encounter differences, but see beauty in the variety He created, to the point of taking the next step toward relationship.

May all of us grow in love towards those who are unlike us and celebrate our uniqueness by offering ourselves to each other in humble service and common sharing of life.

Originally published in Issue 16 of Converge Magazine.


photo by (flickr CC) George A. Spiva Center for the Arts