This is the third post in the series. In the first two posts, I wrote about the cardinal virtues of community, generosity, and resiliency. Today, I want to consider the virtues of diversity and openness to outsiders. New Orleans is a very diverse city. You will find folks from all different walks of life and from all corners of the globe. You can find any kind of food you can imagine, listen to whatever music strikes your fancy, and hear any of a multitude of languages, dialects, and accents. There are many styles of worship, from high church liturgical to storefront.
The body of Christ is similar. People from all over the world follow Jesus. In Revelation we read of people from every tribe and nation gathered around the throne. Christianity is not the possession of any single nation, ethnic group, or language. There are a multitude of ways in which people worship God. A local gathering of the church may be very diverse as well. There may be rich and poor, professional and blue collar.There may be folks who are quiet and reflective alongside those who are more boisterous and outgoing. Young singles may be next to married couples with children, who are next to older empty nesters. Ideally, the church is a body where different sorts of people are accepted and loved. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
One of the reasons for the diversity of New Orleans is the openness of the people to outsiders. New Orleans is a welcoming city to tourists, and to those who choose to stay. Diversity is encouraged and celebrated. No one is told they must be a certain way to visit or live there. This openness brings a unity within the diversity. When Katrina devastated the city, the people there banded together to rebuild it. They see themselves as one and have a mutual love for their city. While there is still much to be done in the rebuilding effort, the unity of the people has brought New Orleans back to vibrancy.
Those of us who follow Jesus should be the most welcoming and open of all people. We are commanded to love others, to do good to others, to show hospitality, to accept others because we have been been accepted. Too many times, that acceptance is not there. Local gatherings of the church tend to be fairly uniform. The natural tendency is to gather with folks who look like us, think like us, worship like us, and are in the same social class as we are. While that may be the natural tendency, the church is a supernatural body. We are the children of a God who has called folks from all walks of life and every nation. Along with the differences, we have some major thing in common. Each of us has been redeemed by the work of Christ, adopted by God, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We are not only fellow believers, we are family!
The early church turned the world upside down because they loved each other and those around them. They were one in their diversity. They were open to their neighbors. They lived the Gospel out in their day-to-day and showed the world the truth of the Kingdom of God. The church in America has largely become impotent because we have become more concerned with proving we are more correct than our brothers and sisters, and by waging "war" on those outside who don't come up to our standards. While there is diversity, there is very little unity and very little openness to outsiders.
May we accept and love our fellow Christians, and be open and hospitable to those in our communities in order to show them the grace of the One who accepts us and who gave his very life for us.
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