Embrace Our Differences

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

— Luke 6:31

Multiculturalism is the presence, or support for the presence, of several distinct cultural or ethnic groups within a society. It is diversity, and the Bible teaches that God created and loves people from every culture and every ethnic group. From the beginning, God’s plan was that “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3). At the end of time, this picture of diversity comes to life in Revelation 7:9 where we read that there was “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” God does not use culture or ethnicity as a reason to exclude people from His kingdom. He seems to delight in the diversity of people who bring Him praise. 

Paul teaches that we can continue and indulge in cultural practices that do not conflict with God’s law. He exhorts the Colossians, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.” (Colossians 2:16) He is telling them that their cultural practices of what foods they eat or the days they choose to celebrate or not celebrate are appropriate to continue and need not conform to another cultural standard. Paul admits to the Corinthians, “And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak, I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might, by all means, save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:20–22) Paul was an expert at taking on whatever cultural practices were necessary to effectively share the gospel. In Athens, Paul referenced the Athenians’ “own poets.” In Acts 17:28,  he writes, “For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” These examples show that cultural differences can be celebrated and appreciated as displays of God’s creativity in the many diverse ways we glorify God. 

Universalism is the philosophical and theological concept that some ideas have universal applications. The living truth is seen as more far-reaching than the national, cultural, or religious boundaries or interpretations of that one truth. As the Rig Veda states, “Truth is one; sages call it by various names.” A community that calls itself universalist may emphasize the universal principles of most religions and inclusively accept others. Nearly all religions and moral philosophies contain the belief in the Golden Rule or the ethics of reciprocity. This falls under moral universalism, which believes that a universal ethic applies universally regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other distinguishing feature. The idea dates at least to the early Confucian times (551–479 BCE). The concept appears prominently in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world’s major religions. As part of the 1993 “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic,” 143 leaders of the world’s major faiths endorsed the Golden Rule. According to the Humanist Rabbi Greg M. Epstein, it is “a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely,” but belief in God is not necessary to endorse the Golden Rule. The English philosopher Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be “found in some form in almost every ethical tradition.”

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” In Romans 12:2, Paul tells his readers, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” No matter what religion or belief system someone has, we were all created to love all people from all cultural backgrounds. We should enjoy and embrace the diversity in this world. At the heart of Christianity, if we hate or discriminate against others, we are not doing God’s will. We must show love and acceptance as Jesus did. Ephesians 4:2-4 tells us, “With all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling.”

If we argue over non-essentials, then we are not accepting differences in people’s preferences and in what they see as sin and what they see as not being a sin. Who are we to judge our brother over the non-essentials like food, drink, days of worship, sexuality, or anything else where the Bible is silent? In Romans 14:4, Paul asks, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”  A good rule to live by is one I learned growing up in the churches of Christ:  Where the Bible is silent, so must we be. This includes LGBTQ+ relationships. Christ never mentions sexuality, and therefore, we should not be judged by others who think differently than we do. We must realize that they are not following God’s Word.

Romans 2:11 tells us, “For there is no partiality with God.” World history shows that cultures treated women like they were livestock or property, but Jesus valued women and treated them as co-heirs and co-equals, and in God’s eyes, women and men are equal before Him.  So too, believers should treat those who are poor, of a different nationality, or in any way are different from us with the same regard as God does. He is no respecter of persons; therefore, there is no partiality with God. Too many people who call themselves Christians forget this. We must learn to accept the faults of others just as God has learned to accept our imperfections. If we want to cast stones, we should be our first target because we have no right to judge anyone else but ourselves. If God accepts us, then we must learn to accept others. To fail to do so is a sin before God because He is no respecter of persons and shows no partiality between men and women, gay and straight, liberal and conservative, etc., over another, nor does God show partiality to any race or ethnicity. If we show partiality, then we are judging them, which is God’s job, not ours.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

One response to “Embrace Our Differences

  • Steven Davis

    Wonderfully stated embrace of cultures and ways of being that reminds us to celebrate ALL that we are and who we are! Thank you! Many blessings to you, my friend.

    Yours, Steve

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