Diversity from Keith Simpson

“Why are those people here at our church”?  Have you ever heard anyone at church say that? I hope not but it has probably been said. I know I heard it a few times growing up. My Grandmother (Granny Cain) was instrumental in me becoming a Christian and had a tremendous impact on my sense of right or wrong. If she ever heard anything like that she would pull me aside and explain that way of thinking wasn’t right and it wasn’t how Christians should treat others. I grew up in the 60’s and there were a lot of changes taking place in society. She always told me God loved us all, regardless of what color of our skin, what we did for a living if we were rich or poor and so on. We are all sinners and are all on this journey called life together. It really bothered her when someone new would show up at church and they were poorly dressed or looked “different” than the rest of us and someone might whisper something about it.  She always taught me to wear my best clothes to church as a sign of respect to God. Being from a very poor family growing up, she knew what it was like to have very little and very few clothes. The reason she would get upset is because of the way some people would react to a person coming in wearing old, worn clothes when that was probably the best they had. God cares about what is in our heart, not how expensive our clothes are. That was a valuable lesson to me. You may be thinking, “What does that have to do with diversity”?  Diversity isn’t just about the color of our skin. It’s also about economic and social status, big or small, intelligent or unschooled and really anything that makes us different. I think diversity within a church is very important. God doesn’t care about any of those things. He loves a rich person just as much as a poor person and so on. Having a diverse congregation allows those who have more, to care and help those who have less. It gives a safe haven for all people to worship and learn in an environment that is nonjudgmental and that embraces all of us. It’s a place where we can go to learn about God and not be looked down on because we may not know the Bible inside and out or that we are slower to learn than others. God embraces us all. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling to know we worship a God that doesn’t care about any of those things but loves us in spite of all of the things that are right or wrong with us? All He requires is that we reach out to Him and ask for His forgiveness. He sees through everything and can look straight into our heart. That’s a very powerful thing to me.

In my experience in the Methodist Church, we do embrace diversity and embracing others that may be different than us. If you get the opportunity, walk around our cemetery. There are people from very different walks of life buried there. There are Confederate soldiers and Union soldiers, probably some wealthy and not so wealthy people there too. Having a diverse church not only helps us individually but helps us collectively in society. I think God expects us to welcome and embrace each and every person who walks through the doors of Cokes Chapel UMC. He expects us to share the word and show how much richer life is with Christ in it. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus shows acts of humility and grace. Think about the Last Supper. He washed the feet of all his disciples. Feet washing was usually done by a servant and was done before the meal. He showed us humility. He set the example for all of us to follow. His grace and love are unmatched. John 13:2-16 explains this ritual of washing feet.

God created us as a diverse people and He wants us to unite. That’s why He gave us different skills and strengths so that we would recognize our need for one another and appreciate our individuality. And God’s love for variety is not just visible in us but in all aspects of His creation. Look at the many species in any ecosystem all living in synchrony, or the changing seasons, each allowing for growth and harvest.

Let us continue to welcome each and every person that walks through our doors. Let’s show how common we are instead of how different we all are. Let’s spread the word and love, grace, compassion and forgiveness to the world. We are all in this journey called life together and together we can spread the love of God and be Disciples For Christ.

May you all be blessed with the love of Christ. I’ll leave you with a couple verses of scripture.

Galatians 3:28

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 –

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one bodywhether Jews or Gentiles, slave or freeand we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so, the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
Keith Simpson

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