I graduated from Texas City High School in 1993. Directly across the street from our high school’s football stadium was the First Baptist Church of Texas City, which is where I came to know Christ.
In Texas, high school football makes the town exist. It’s the thing everyone can rally around. But I noticed something after my conversion that I had never noticed before. On Friday nights, that church parking lot would be filled with African-Americans and Caucasians and Latinos and wealthy people and poor people and every type of diversity imaginable, all piling in to walk across the street to watch a football game.
What struck me was that the parking lot on Sunday morning looked completely different than the parking lot on Friday night. As diverse as it was on Friday night, it was completely homogenized on Sunday morning. On Sunday morning, 100 percent of the faces in that parking lot were white.
All of us, regardless of color, are drawn toward homogeneous units. We run with people who look like us and who value what we value. When all is said and done, although we wouldn’t say with our mouths that we believe our race is superior to other races, we do not value differences. We’re not drawn toward diversity.
We may not fit the category of “racist,” strictly speaking, but we hang out with a bunch of other white people. We’re not racist, but we run with just black people. We’re not racist, but our crew is predominantly Latino. Sure, we may have a few token friends of a different color, but only because they act like us or walk like us or think like us. Race is still an issue for us. Although political correctness has taken it out of our mouths, it has not taken it out of our hearts or our lives.
We’re drawn toward those like us because to embrace diversity is to lean into uncomfortable conversations. If everyone around us has a similar background, we almost never risk being misunderstood. We speak the same language. We have experienced the same privileges and offenses, so we’re able to speak with one another in a way that doesn’t require a lot of clarification. But when you enter into diversity, the rules change. It’s harder work. Sensitivities start getting exposed.
So how to do we work through this and pursue diversity, especially when it’s so difficult? First things first: we need to acknowledge our inclination to surround ourselves with people like ourselves. We have to own it. We can’t simply say, “I’m not racist, but I just don’t have any friends of color.” Again, we have to own it. We all have something to own when it comes to matters of race. We need to ask the Holy Spirit, like David did, to reveal to us where we are being sinful. Then we need to confess it.
There’s no place for racial nonsense in the Church, no place for this nonsense in the kingdom of God. We can surround ourselves with sameness in our churches, but the book of Revelation says that one day we’ll throw our crowns at the Lord’s feet and worship together in the ultimate display of diversity.
Let’s ask the Lord for help. Let’s ask Him that His Kingdom might come, on earth as it is in heaven. Let’s ask Him that the Church might be marked by intimate, deep relationships that cross all kinds of lines: the lines of color, the lines of culture, the lines of socioeconomic status. We must share more than the Friday night lights at the football stadium. As children of the Light, we must share our lives with one another. Our lives will be richer and will mirror more fully the saving work of Jesus Christ when He becomes the one who defines for us who our people are.