“God delights in diversity”
Jonathan Sacks, in his book “The Great Partnership” writes the line above and goes on to explain that there are, for example, forty thousand different varieties of beetle.
The writer of the Psalms rejoices in the variety that God creates too as we can read in Psalm 104:24-25
“Lord, you have made so many things! How wisely you made them all! The earth is filled with your creatures. There is the ocean, large and wide, where countless creatures live, large and small alike…”
But coming back to Jonathan Sacks book again, his opening line is actually taken from a chapter which is about Darwin and the whole book is about the way in which Sacks sees the need for science and religion to work together rather than what seems to be the usual approach which brings these two into opposition in the ‘Science verses religion’ debate.
This approach tends to compartmentalise science and religion and treat them as separate worlds and ignores the view that science and religion speak about different ways of looking at and exploring the world which says that ‘Science is about the world that is and religion is about the world that ought to be’
I get really excited though at the point where Jonathan Sacks book stops and that is where I begin to explore God’s delight in diversity from a Christian viewpoint. For one of the criticisms I have heard levelled at Christians (or perhaps more accurately levelled at the church) is that the aim is to make a people who are uniform, where all Christians have the same belief structure, bound by the same rules and think the same thing.
In reality though, if we explore the Bible we find that Jesus’ approach was very different. Rather than encouraging those things which bind, oppress and restrict, he set out to free people from them.
Take for example the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15) bed-ridden by an infirmity for thirty eight years, waiting for someone to lower him into the healing waters. A word from Jesus and the man was made well. Or what of Blind Bartimaeus, (defined by his blindness) and Jesus healing words “Go your faith has made you well” which sets Bartimaeus free to be the individual God wants him to be.
The much discussed verse in the Old Testament (Genesis 1:27) seems to have something to say about diversity too: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Amongst other things I believe that verse teaches that all people are created with the Godly characteristics which the Holy Spirit reveals such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, and so on.
If God ‘delights in diversity’, that image which he creates us in is not a restricting image but one which frees us to live and rejoice in the difference and individuality which God longs for in you and in me.
Deacon Richard Beckett – July 2015