Diversity, where is the line?

Jun 12, 2015 by

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I have always been intrigued by John 3:16. As a child, the idea that God loved me, my family, friends and neighbors was good news. Every year during Mission Week I would hear stories and watch slide presentations about how God loved people who lived a long ways away from me.

I’m not sure that I ever said this out loud to anyone, but I always knew that there were people beyond the reach of God’s love. These people were the big time sinners. I was pretty sure the rock bands Kiss and Led Zeppelin were included in this list. Kiss because they were “Knights in Satan’s Service,” and Led Zeppelin because playing “Stairway to Heaven” backwards elicited a subliminal message strong enough steal a person’s soul.

Over time I became comfortable with the idea that I could define the world that God loved and sent his one and only son to save. Although I hadn’t studied the original languages, I was reasonably sure that the original Greek allowed for this re-definition of the world God loved. This understanding served me well through high school, college and even seminary.

Cracks began to appear in my world view a little over 20 years ago. I attended a Christian Community Development Association gathering in Denver. John Perkins, the founder, had just written a book emphasizing the three “R’s” of urban ministry — reconciliation, redistribution, and relocation. It was his thought on reconciliation that challenged me the most. For Perkins, reconciliation had something to do with expanding my concept of the world that God loved.

Again, on paper this sounded good. There was no question that my ideas of God’s world were filled with all manner of stereotypes and prejudices. God had much to teach me about race, gender, economics, theology and national origin. This journey into a more diverse understanding of God’s world has been both terrifying and liberating.

Sometimes I can relate to the prophet Jonah, sitting on the outskirts of the city, waiting for God to destroy Jonah’s enemy but knowing deep down that God is merciful and forgiving. Other times it is freeing to not let my faith journey be defined by friends and enemies.

This journey into an ever expanding understanding of the world Jesus died for is not without controversy. I grew up in a small denomination, so it was somewhat natural to be afraid of people and faith experiences that understood God differently. When it came to understanding who was and was not included in God’s world I always new there was a place for me, but could not always extend my understanding of grace to those who were different. Especially if I understood that difference to be sin.

In the past few weeks many have witnessed reality TV stars, the Duggar family, asking forgiveness for the inappropriate sexual behavior of one of their children. At the same time, the Duggars are known for condemning others for their sexual orientation. Isn’t it interesting that grace and forgiveness is demanded when a wrong is committed by a family member, but condemnation is leveled for just being different and outside a particular understanding of who God is?

Like me, people of faith and the church cannot have it both ways. We can either have a myopic understanding of God’s world or we can take the more interesting road and assume that the world God loves includes everyone, no exceptions. Theology, class, gender, orientation, race, nationality or any other way of dividing we can come up with simply isn’t important to God.

Glenn Balzer lives in Denver and attends His Love Fellowship. He blogs at glennbalzer.com where this post first appeared.

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  • Elaine Fehr

    I can agree that class, gender, orientation, race, nationality are not important to God, but confession, repentance and faith are necessary. God forgives those who confess their sin, repent and put their faith in Him. However much He loves sinners, God will not extend His saving grace to those who refuse to confess, repent and put their faith in Him.

  • Dale Welty

    Regarding the Duggar family, the sinner in this case was a youth.
    Further, the sinner ask forgiveness and repented meaning he no longer
    continues in this sin. God forgave him, therefore the sin no longer
    exists in God’s eyes–1 John 1:9. God forgives sin when true repentance
    is made, but God does not sanitize a continuing sinful life style that
    violates scripture. Dale Welty

  • Conrad Hertzler

    The discussions in which I have been involved and those that I have read on this forum thankfully almost never revolve around the question of whom does God love. But rather what is our responsibility and how do we live before a holy and completely loving God? How do we love like Jesus loved and be holy as the Bible commands us to be?

    I think it is unfair to say that the Duggars are “demanding” forgiveness for the trespasses of their son and I think it is unfair to say that the Duggars and others like them “condemn” people for being different. Can we love our Christian brothers and sisters enough to “esteem them better than ourselves” and believe that they are on a quest to love God and obey His commands to live holy lives? None of us does this perfectly and every one of us struggles with stereotypes and prejudices. Including writers like Mr. Balzer who again stereotypes conservatives as being condemning and narrow. To me, this kind of blog post, while coming across as loving to people who traditionally have been not welcome in church, comes across as unloving towards people on the opposite end of the spectrum from the author. I wish everyone on both ends of the spectrum could take a deep breath and start asking, “how can we love our brothers and sisters who disagree with us?”