Embracing the Diversity Around You

Oct. 10, 2014 Trillia Newbell

Session Transcript

Well, Lord, I am honored to be here, honored to speak about You, Lord. You are the Creator God, an amazing, magnificent Creator God, and that we would be made in Your image is amazing and outstanding and there are no words. And so Lord, I just pray that today You would give us new eyes to see what You have made and how You have made it good. Give us new desires for sisterhood, that we would see each other as sisters in Christ; that we would love one another in new ways, God. Give us a new vision for Your kingdom and how it's been made, Lord. It's amazing! So God, I am excited. I'm excited about today. Thank You for these women who've traveled to come and hear from these speakers. God, thank You for them. I pray that You would bless them and bless this time. In Jesus' name, Amen.

(Alright, come on in. We haven't even really started. We've just been praying.)

This is about the beauty of diversity. And it's not just about the beauty of diversity but about embracing the beauty of diversity around us. So it's not that we just want to see it and acknowledge it, we want to embrace it. And so that's what we're going to be talking about today.

I am a mom and a wife-you'll hear a little bit more about my kids later-and I'm the author of "United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity". I was captured by it, and I look forward to sharing a little bit of that vision with you.

Now, I want to start by telling you that I caught a cold. So, if I start sneezing or having a sneezing fit, that's why I have this toilet paper. Forgive me. That's what happens. I started sneezing earlier today and I finally just said, "Okay, Lord, I get it. I will rely on You." So if you could be praying that I would rely on Him that would be great.

So, if anyone's watched the news or if anyone's turned on your TV, you know that we have had some tough situations in the United States over the last few years. But just recently, have you heard of the Michael Brown case? Okay, in this case, a young African American male was shot. And the reaction and the response-what it did to me and for me was remind me that we're not past this, are we? It's clear: the conversation needs to keep happening.

We need to keep talking about it because the response was awfully divided, wasn't it? There's lots of tension still in the United States, in our churches. So how do we think about this? How do we think about this as women? How do we think about this as a church?

I think the Bible gives us a better way to think about this than our culture does. If we rely on the culture, we will be discouraged and divided. The gospel has a better word; He speaks a better word. And that's what we're going to talk about today. If we rely on what our culture says and how we respond in looking at that, we will be divided. We can let these news stories divide us, and we can even become suspicious of our own brothers and sisters in Christ if we do that.

There are about 8,500 ladies here at this conference, which blows my brain-it blows it away! And of those, I've already met people from Iran, the Dominican Republic, and Ireland. That's amazing. We have white, Indian, African American…we are a diverse people. And what God says about us, as far as "in the beginning", is amazing.

In the beginning, Gen. 1:27 tells us that God created all of mankind in His image; male and female were made in His image. And we know from Ephesians 1:4 that God in His goodness and kindness had man in mind before the foundation of the world.

Now, God is omniscient. He's all-knowing. So before the foundation of the world, He knew that Adam and Eve were going to…what? They were going to sin. They were going to fall. He knew that the fall was going to happen. And yet, He still created us with aspects of Himself. Isn't that amazing? He knew we were going to rebel, that we were going to turn from Him. And yet in His amazing goodness and kindness, He has made us all, created us all, in His very image.

Knowing this, He didn't have to. He didn't have to give us aspects of Himself, but He did. God, the Holy One, pure and awesome, created us to reflect aspects of His beauty and character. We are not worthy, are we? We are not worthy.

As God's image bearers, we are equal. We are equal in dignity and worth, and also in fallenness. We know that Rom. 3:23 tells us that all "fall short of the glory of God". But as Gen. 1:27 explains-and I'm starting here because this is the foundation, and we're going to go all the way to Revelation-all of us are created in His image. We have dominion over the rest, and it's a profound mystery and yet a great privilege.

Now, we could probably stop there and you would think, "Okay, we're created in His image. We don't need to know anything else." But because we are fallen, we can divide. The truth is, it's not that one person is made in His image, it's that every single person walking on this earth-everyone -is created and made in the image of God. We are all image bearers. Whether we accept Christ or not, He created us in His image. That is amazing!

Christ, of course, is always our supreme example of embracing the diversity around Him. Christ continually throughout the New Testament related to people who were not like Him. And of course, no one is like Him. But He related to the tax collector, the prostitute, Samaritans who were hated by Jewish people, and vice versa.

He was bold to share. Bold to the point of death on the cross. Bold to His own death, because He loved souls. And with His death came His Spirit, poured out for us. The gospel has the power to bring even the most unlikely people together-some of you in this room.

This is my story on how the Lord helped me to embrace diversity: When I was growing up, I guess you could say I always had a vision for diversity, but it was a different type of diversity, which we'll talk about later. But I was, I guess you could say, "political". But when I became a Christian I caught a different glimpse.

What the Lord did was give me two very close friends. One is white, Amy, and then the other is Chinese. And we became the best of friends. (And actually, Amy's aunt is here, which is special.)

So we became the best of friends, but we couldn't have been more different. Besides ethnicity, we were culturally; we were in personality. Everything about us was so different. The Lord in His kindness brought us together; He brought these relationships together.

And so for about seven years I did accountability with them. We were in each other's weddings, and even last week we spoke together. We're still very good friends. But it was these relationships that helped me understand that diversity wasn't what I always thought it was. It was these relationships that the Lord used to help me begin to understand that diversity was beyond what I learned and picked up in college, or what I learned and picked up in high school.

When you hear the term "diversity"-you don't have to answer; you can if you want-but what do you think of when you hear the term "diversity"? (You can think to yourself.) Do you think "challenged"? Okay, you can shout out. That's fine.

I tell you, the term "diversity" has taken on several meanings. And in the early 60's, the term "diversity" would mostly have referred to desegregation - the need for it. "We need to have a diverse community. We need to desegregate."

By the 70's and 80's it would be associated immediately with affirmative action. So, by "diversity", people would think, "We need to have quotas." Or, "We need to bring people in to certain areas." Now days diversity is huge. The definition is broad, and there are a myriad of different ways that it's defined. But the Bible gives us a compelling vision for diversity in the kingdom of God.

Diversity is already quite present. I've already told you about the eight thousand women who are here, and we're diverse. The kingdom is already very diverse. But what we need to see it that it's in Scripture. And that's where we're going to turn. Today, I want to cast a vision for the beauty of diversity found in the Word.

But before I do that, I want to ask us some hard questions. We're going to get some heart issues out there just in case there are any. (We all have them!) Why don't we embrace the diversity around us? That's the question we need to ask ourselves. Why is it such a challenge? It's true, it's a challenge, but why? Why is it a challenge? Why is it hard for us to embrace it?

Understanding God's creation, and how it applies to the gospel and our relationship with one another, should be enough, right? It should have an effect on how we view and interact with one another. Theoretically we know this.

You all could probably recite Scripture after Scripture where all the nations will be together. We know this. We know that God created each of us with equal value and worth. We know that the gospel is the good news that Jesus came to seek and save the lost for all people. We know this, yet, are we living out these truths?

Let's think of a simple example. And so this is where I want you to just think:
What does your lunch time look like?
When you invite someone out after church, who are you inviting?
When you invite someone into your home for hospitality, do they always look just like you?
Do they always think just like you? (That could give you something to broaden it a little.)
Do they always look just like you?

If you answered "yes" you're in good company. Most of us would probably say "yes". Yes, they do. "Yes, I tend to group with people who are like me." You can say that. We can admit it. It's truthful; it's more comfortable to dine with those who are just like us, and there's nothing new about it. That term "nothing new under the sun" applies here, too.

When the early church gathered in homes (probably the homes of wealthy), certain diversions emerged over dinner tables. That's 1 Cor. 11:17-22, if you want to research it. (We are going to open up Scriptures in just a second.) Commentators believe that these divisions were caused because wealthy believers tended to sit and feast together with other wealthy believers, and there was a social rank. Does that sound familiar?

It's always more comfortable to dine with people who resemble us. But however comfortable this makes us, divisions over race or class are a clear contradiction of the gospel. And I'm going to repeat that: It may be comfortable to us. But however comfortable this makes us, divisions over race or class are a clear contradiction of the gospel.

This is simply just one example that I'm sharing here. But it's typically where we can see it played out the most. We can see divisions played out the most in our own homes or on our own lunch tables. And so that's where we look.

And I don't bring this up in any way to cause guilt or condemnation, which I'm trusting that you will know that. Jesus Christ washes over this division, which we will again talk about. It's simply the matter of the mission, and we want to be on mission, right?

It's good for us to evaluate our mission. The great commission calls us to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19). So we need to think about these things. So we stop and we ask questions; we need to see that there is a problem before we can solve the problem.

We're going to open it up to James 2:1-9, or you can simply listen:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

We can honestly ask ourselves if this is something we tend to struggle with. Are we partial? I would say that I love people and yet I know that I can be partial. I can say that; I can admit that to you guys. It is so much easier for me to go up to someone who I know I relate to one way or another. It takes work. It's a challenge. It takes work and effort and repentance.

I have a favorite coffee shop and I can go in there and see all the different people walking in, and I can even make judgments based on just what they're wearing, if they're a hipster. (I guess that's the thing now?) You can make these judgments and look at them and decide whether or not they're someone you can embrace or not. That's what we want to fight against.

Even though James is not addressing ethnicity here, I would say that we could apply it to the same temptation to being partial to certain ethnicities as well. But also, we can even broaden it to economics, which he is talking about, preferences, and much more. We want to pursue various ethnicities; I would say that's something we must do because of the gospel.

But I also want to encourage you, if you're living in a rural area or the suburbs or somewhere where diversity is just lacking, do not be discouraged. It's about the heart, and that's what we want to talk about. So if you have a heart that loves people and wants to embrace people, and you see them as image bearers and the light in the gospel, and you would welcome them if they were there-that's where we want to be. We don't want you to leave here discouraged.

There are lots of other ways that we can embrace diversity. We're women-do we love our sister who feeds her kids Lunchables versus the one who's organic? There's so many issues where it's just silliness that distract us from loving one another. Homeschooling, no-schooling, un-schooling, whatever-schooling-there are so many things that divide us.

We are after gracious churches and hearts that are transformed by the gospel, that love people and embrace people. Today I'm talking about ethnicity, but you can apply this quite broadly.

I remember when I was in college at the University of Tennessee, (and I'm not that old-it was like the 90s) I met this girl for the first time who was so sweet. She was from a rural area and was white, and she came up to me and said, "You're the first black person I've ever met!" And I thought, Really? I couldn't believe it! But I was so excited because, instead of what she could have done, (you know rural Tennessee, she could have been scared) she was so excited. And I was excited! And that's kind of the heart that I want us to have: "Lord, You are so creative." And I pray that if I'm the first black person you've seen, Praise God!

But it also tells you how we think. We're in 2014, but remember, I started this talk with news stories that divide our nation. We are still having these conversations. This was in '97; she hadn't met anyone; so this is the reality. I spoke at a church a little while ago, and another lady came up to me and told me that I was the second black person she'd seen in a couple of weeks. And so this is the reality that we just need to embrace.

There are communities, like in Chicago, that are divided-you tell me if I'm wrong-where there are streets that are "Italian Street". That's amazing. But from what I've heard, because I'm not from Chicago, some people won't even relate to one another. We don't want to be like that; we're the church; we're Christians. So that's what we're talking about.

I share these stories because when we pursue diversity in friendships, I simply want to be realistic. So when we talk about these things, I don't want you, again, to leave discouraged. I want to be realistic, that it can be hard, very hard especially if we are not in a place where it is diverse.

So you ask the Lord, Do I struggle with the sin of partiality? God's Word is useful. We can be addressed even if we aren't in an ethnically diverse area and can still ask the Lord, Is my heart partial? Do I love people? Is it hard to embrace people who are not like me?

We want to build environments where the poor are welcome, the tax collector, the prostitutes, the rich, the white, the black. We want to have places that love people and embrace people so that we can really share the gospel. We don't want to hinder the gospel, and the only way that we can do this is to first have our own hearts transformed. That's where it begins. We want to have cultures of grace, but we can't have it if our hearts aren't transformed.

So if anyone is thinking, Yes, this is me, Jesus is awesome, and He says we are never tempted without a way of escape. And in this case, we look to Jesus again as our example. Besides the fact that He loved the poor, the orphan, the widow, the tax collector, and the prostitute, He loves you and He died for you, and He died for that sin. So if that is something that you're dealing with, "If we confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us" (1 John 1:9).

His death wasn't for friends, His death was for people like me and you. And that's who He laid down His life for - people of all nations; the people with the same sin. He did that for us. We can look to Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves by laying down our comforts to reach out to those who are unlike ourselves. And this will not be easy but it is part of our mission. Any change is only enabled by the Holy Spirit. So we must ask God to send His Spirit and pour it out on us so that we can be bold and we can walk in faith and trust in Him.

So we know our hearts can be tempted. But is there even a biblical basis for this pursuit of diversity? And that's what I want to give you now. So here are four reasons from the Bible, and I'm just going to run over them because we only have thirty minutes left.

The first one I've already talked about: We are image bearers . We are all created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Not one of us-now listen to this; this is amazing to me-not one of us was made apart from the creative, thoughtful design of our Creator God. He really thought about it. That means my skin wasn't a mistake and neither was yours. He thought about it.

Ps. 139:13-14: "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."

As image bearers we were all made to reflect the Lord. So, if we are all created equally in the image of God, then as redeemed image bearers, this is the first indication that God's kingdom is diverse. It's already in Scripture. The word "diversity" isn't, but the picture is.

We are created equally in His image. He doesn't discriminate in His design. In other words, He doesn't create one human being greater than the other. Because we are all image bearers we can know that God's kingdom includes a variety of people all ultimately made to reflect and worship Him. So that's number one.

Number two-this is the second reason why we would even pursue this: Redemption. The gospel. We were all created in need of God's saving grace. Regardless of the color, the fall affected us all. Every man, every woman. The good news is Jesus died for every tribe and tongue and nation. He did not discriminate. His mission was to seek and save the lost, and that's everyone.

John 3:16-it's famous; it's been on every award, period. It's just everywhere, but it is so true. But before we get to John 3:16, let's start with John 3:14. You can just listen:

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." Though the "everyone" in verse 15 has been debated, we know that the "everyone" includes every tribe, tongue and nation.

Verse 16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

God loved the world and made it possible that anyone who believed-anyone who believed-would have eternal life. He made the way for all people. The gospel is for all nations. The gospel is not a European gospel, it's for all nations. It's for every one of us, and that's awesome.

The great commission­­­ reminds us that His mission is our mission. We are in it with Him. Jesus commissions His disciples to make more disciples of all nations. He doesn't say, "Go, find people just like you." No, He doesn't. He says, "Go and make disciples of all nations." And they went. And it was hard and some of them died a martyr's death. It's a hard, hard, hard mission, but it's a good one.

He says that and we should seek to love and serve people from all nations. I say "love and serve" because sharing the gospel is really the main way that we can love and serve people of all nations.

The third way: The family of God. This is good news. As Christians, we are adopted children of God. We are children of God, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). We are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ; that's amazing! Before the foundation of the world God had us in mind. And then He adopts us as His very own children. Do you believe that? You are a child of God.

A few days ago I left some of the most important people in my life. I have a daughter who's four, almost five, and a son who's eight, and a husband who's awesome. And I left them to come and be with you. And they gladly released me. But they are so important to me. They are my family. They are the greatest gift the Lord has given me apart from salvation. I love them so, so deeply. It's hard to imagine that anything could be that important or more important.

There's another family that's of great value, and that's us in this room. We are a family. Even before His death, Jesus affirmed the importance of being a part of the family of God. Addressing the people while His mother and brothers stood outside, Jesus said, "'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."' (Matt. 12:48-50)

Jesus isn't making a statement that our families aren't important. So my kids and family are very, very important. Rather, He's saying that following Him is greater-it's great. He takes priority and so does His kingdom, so much so that those who follow Him are counted as His brothers and sister and mother.

We are His family. That means that my friends, Amy and Lillian, that I told you about earlier, were less like friends and more like sisters. One way for us to truly love and care for the church is for us to get a "Big God View" of the family of God. This will transform this.

The family of God, the kingdom of God, is very colorful. I have a colorful family. You have a colorful family and you didn't even know it. We have a colorful family. It's about embracing it, embracing that diversity around us because it's already there. We're already one another. We are together, us, united. Understanding our adoption is important to pursuing diverse friendship. So I'm going to come back to adoption later.

The fourth one is the last days. We know these Scriptures; we probably have them all memorized. Revelation records striking accounts of the last days when all nations, tribes and tongues will be together worshiping. We will all be together worshiping. First picture: Rev. 5:9 of creatures and elders falling on their faces before the Lamb. They're singing about His worthiness, the worthiness of the Lord. They are proclaiming the redemption of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

And then in Rev. 7, John tells us of a multitude of nations worshiping again; every nation, tribe, people, language. "And they cried out with a loud voice," (this is Rev. 7:9-10) "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" They are all crying out - unified. That's the picture of heaven. Lord, would You bring heaven on earth? That's my prayer for us.

God doesn't have to remind us again in His Word that His Kingdom of God is diverse, but He does. From Genesis to Revelation He's telling us, "Hey, guys, it's diverse. It is colorful. You have a colorful family."

What we won't have in heaven is sin. So the sin of partiality, the sin that separates us, the sin that divides our nation when these hard things like a young man getting shot, when those things come we will not have it any longer. It will be wiped away. Isn't that good news? That brings me joy.

Creation, redemption, adoption and revelation proves that there is a diverse kingdom , and it's all throughout Scripture. The pursuit of diversity reflects the Bible's description of the kingdom. We pursue it not because it's a fad. The Church likes to adopt fads, let's be honest.

We don't want diversity or multi-ethnic to be a fad, we want it to be gospel-centered and -focused because it's in the Word-that's what motivates us. It's not because it's something that's popular or cool or something that everyone is talking about right now. We want to embrace it because the Scripture does; because Jesus did. He died for us, all of us, and that's where we turn and that's why we embrace it. If we get this foundation first it will help motivate us to love and serve our neighbors and love and serve people.

So I'm going to assume that if you came to this you're going to want to know "how do I do it?" Okay, let's put feet to this. We're going to get there, but first I want to talk a little bit about our adoption.

So of the four points I mentioned, I think what will transform us the most is to understand that we are brothers and sisters in Christ (except that there are no brothers in here, but you get it). The Word addresses the church not in terms of individuals or even friends but as a family. We are part of the family of God.

Even people I've never spoken with, which are many people in here, are more like family, I imagine, and this is something that's really amazing about adoption. I could have lunch with any of you and we would immediately have something in common. Isn't that amazing? It's unique and it's our Christian faith. It's very, very special. It's unique.

As we begin to view members of our churches (and even as we look around this room at each other) and begin to view each other as members of God's family, and thus as members of our family, our prejudices begin to crumble. Racial reconciliation is not possible. It's a must because we're the family of God. The church can't be divided because it's like dividing a family.

Understanding the family of God is yet another weapon against racial intolerance in the church and beyond. It's our weapon. The gospel is our weapon. As we recognize, accept and embrace our new family, the walls of hostility will crumble. Only in the family of God can people be so distinctly different and yet be so the same. Equal in creation and redemption and counted as brothers and sisters in a new family.

As I've said earlier, I didn't think much about it until my friends and I really began to think about it, and the Lord knit our hearts together. Our friendship was not unique because we were three folks from different backgrounds and ethnicities; we were unique because, as previously mentioned, only in the family of God can people be so different and yet so similar, so the same, because of creation.

So I think you all know I'm not saying go and ditch your families. That's not the goal. The goal is that we love people and that we recognize that we are in the family of God. I want to read this quote to you. It's a little long, but it's awesome. This is how Dr. Russell Moore put it in his book Adopted for Life. (He's talking about adoption as in adoption. But this is one part where he's talking about the family [of God].) All right, so these are his words:

Our adoption means . . . that we find a different kind of unity. In Christ, we find Christ. We don't have our old identities based on race or class or life situation. The Spirit drives us from Babel to Pentecost, which is why "the works of the flesh" Paul warns about include "enmity, strife, jealousy. . . ." When we find our identity anywhere other than Christ, our churches will be made up of warring partisans rather than loving siblings. What would it mean, though, if we took the radical notion of being brothers and sisters seriously? What would happen if your church saw an elderly woman no one would ever confuse with "cool" on her knees at the front of the church praying with a body-pierced, fifteen-year-old anorexic girl? What would happen if your church saw a white millionaire corporate vice-president being mentored by a Latino minimum wage-earning janitor because both know the janitor is more mature in the things of Christ?

That would be radical if our churches looked like that. What if we took it seriously? Our friendships, our pursuits, our working relationships would radically change. Our interactions with others would radically change because we'd see each other as equal. We'd see each other as equally sinful, equally redeemed, equally in need of grace. That would be amazing. And it is Christ that makes us united-it is Christ.

We know in 1 Cor. 12:14-20 that God has made us with many parts. I can read it real quick:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

Paul is writing about gifts here, but there is one thing that is clear. Diversity is important. He isn't directly addressing it, but just a few verses earlier this is what he says: "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit." (I Cor. 12:12-13)

So, just as God creates us with varying gifts, He creates us with varying shades, if you will. He is a creative God. And we need one another; just as the Corinthians, we need one another.

My friends and I benefited greatly by the diversity in our small group. Amy is really, really gracious, so when we met together she would just remind us of grace, of God's grace, because that was her experience.

Lillian was incredibly compassionate, so she would say something and weep, and we'd all be weeping. She just had great compassion and we knew that she was going to love us with compassion.

And I have experienced lots of trials which I'm going to get to talk about in my next session. So I got to encourage my friends in faith under trials. And this is amazing, because had we not met together, if we would have just said, "Well, our ethnicities are different," or "I'm going to try to find someone who's more like me," we would not have benefited all that we did. (And we benefited greatly from one another.)

So here are nine reasons (I don't know why I just have nine-we can shout out a tenth reason to make it even) but here are nine reasons why you want to pursue deep friendships with those who are unlike yourself, or why we should embrace the diversity around us:

1. We gain understanding. We gain understanding of one another, which I didn't mention [earlier]. My husband is white so I have two bi-racial babies and they're beautiful to me. (I'm biased, though!) I have such different understanding by being one with my awesome husband.

2. We display the gospel. Jesus wasn't partial so why are we? We shouldn't be.

3. It is an act of loving our neighbor.

4. Potential growth and evangelism. As we gain understanding about different people and those who we think are not like us, we gain understanding and are less fearful. I'm sure for that young sweet, sweet girl that came up to me and I was the first black person she'd met, the next time [for her] there was no fear, because she was gaining understanding. You become less fearful, which for Christians that's good news for evangelism because that's what we want to do; we want to share the gospel.

5. It helps us to be united-unity in the body of Christ.

6. It is a reflection of creation.

7. It is a reflection of the last days. (Rev. 7:9) Why do we have to wait? Do we have to wait? I don't think so.

8. It is a reflection of God's character. He's Trinitarian: God the Father, God the Son-Jesus-and God the Holy Spirit.

9. It makes us personally richer. I am personally richer because of my relationships with those girls. I am personally richer when I get to know someone who is not like me.

So, what should you do? The first thing to do is to pray. Isn't that good news? You don't have to go out and run the streets. But pray and ask the Lord to give you wisdom to reveal your heart. Ask Him to give you opportunities. Ask Him to give your pastor opportunities. If you are in a church and it's less diverse but that's your desire, pray. Go before the Lord who loves to hear us pray and pray and ask for it. Ask the Lord. Seek Him. He loves our prayers.

The second thing that you would do is evangelize. Step out of that comfort zone and share the gospel with someone who's not like you. That's part of our mission. Go, make disciples of all nations.

Finally, we want to be hospitable. So the next time you look at your table and you have an opportunity to bring someone in, ask the Lord to give you someone who's not like you - someone in your church. There may be someone who's marginalized in your church. Ask the Lord to give you an opportunity to serve them. There could be someone who feels like they are "the only one". Ask God to give you the opportunity to serve and bring them in and be hospitable.

And there's a chance that some of you have never considered these things before. You've never considered diversity and its impact or how it relates to the gospel. It's a step of faith because it's hard. And so I want to pray for you; I want to pray for you right now that you would be compelled by the love of Christ to go, make disciples of all nations, to embrace the diversity around you and to love your neighbor as yourself, because it is hard and you need the gospel, and you need the power of the Spirit to do this. So let's pray.

Lord, You know each woman by name in this room. You have even numbered their hairs. You know. . . You know them intimately. You know what's on their hearts and You know what brought them here. I don't know but You do. And so God, I pray that whatever they were thinking or praying, God would You answer their prayer? Would You answer their questions? Would You help them in whatever ways, whatever area it is? God, would You give them a vision for Your kingdom? God, thank You that this isn't something that is a fad that I'm just talking about, but it's in Your Word. God, Your Word is what directs this conversation.

Thank You that You have made us in Your image; that You have redeemed us by the blood of the Lamb, each and every one of us who have believed and trusted in Jesus Christ; that You have redeemed us. Thank You.

Lord, thank You that one day there will not be divisions; that one day these hard, hard stories will be gone; that there won't be division in the church over things like skin, or color. Lord, thank You that we will all one day be worshiping together-every tribe and tongue and nation.

Lord, would You do that now? Let heaven come to earth. And would You allow us now to worship together? God, thank You for the True Woman conference and that right now 8,500 women are together and we are looking to celebrate, to worship. It's a taste of heaven; it's a foretaste of this beauty that we get to experience forever more. Lord, thank You that we get a taste of it right now!

So, Lord, I thank You for the cross. I thank You that Jesus died; and it's the gospel that transforms this conversation. It's the gospel that unites us. It's the gospel that gives us the courage really to step out in faith and evangelize and to pray and to invite people into our home and onto our lunch tables who are not like us. It is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ dying on our behalf and bearing all the wrath that we deserve.

So, Lord, I thank You that that is what we are standing on. We're standing on the gospel, not on our works and not on whatever we think is the good thing to do, but on the good news. So, Lord, it's that which is going to motivate us. May we be compelled by You, Lord, compelled by Christ, Lord to do this, to do this hard work of embracing diversity around us.

So Lord, thank You for these women. Thank You for these hearts, for their attentiveness. And I pray that You would answer their prayers and give them much joy in serving. In Jesus' name, Amen.