Finding God in Diversity

There’s nothing like a good science fiction story to get us thinking outside of the box. I recently read a story where the main characters had to work with what seemed like the perfect team; a group of clones that looked, thought, and acted alike. This clone team could predict each other’s decisions and behaviors. Disagreements were kept at a minimum and there was no work time lost to complicated explanations. Other individual workers were excluded from the clone team because they were viewed as unnecessary and cumbersome. Eventually an accident befell the team and in the end their uniformity was a liability. They all thought the same so they all acted the same in a crisis and paid the price for it.

This story is set far in the future, yet I wonder how often it reflects our own preferences for conformity and uniformity. In our day to day lives it’s easy to choose the familiar over something unknown and challenging. What does God desire when it comes to diversity? And what does diversity have to do with our spiritual formation?

In Revelation 7:9 we glimpse even further into the future than our science fiction story takes us. History is about to reach its ultimate conclusion and we see “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” standing before God. In this passage humanity has not been boiled down to its least common denominator. The defining characteristics of its various cultures have not been erased or scrubbed clean. In fact at the culmination of history we see that our differences (language, culture, origin), far from being a hindrance to our worship of God, are an essential factor in our ability to bring glory to God’s name.

We shouldn’t be surprised that diversity glorifies God. When Jesus came to earth he “made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Us is a word of plurality. It silences an individualistic approach to God which insists on God only making a dwelling in me—in things that look and act and think and sound like me. When God makes a dwelling among us it means that God may show up in places that I am not expecting. Because of the incarnation, Christ is uniquely present in each and every culture and in each and every person. As Christ is revealed, we have the opportunity to encounter him in a new way, which challenges our tunnel vision.

If spiritual formation is about “being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” (Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey), diversity ensures that we are being made in Christ’s image rather than making Christ in ours. The discomfort of diversity is a reminder to seek God’s image wherever it may be found, rather than only finding it in places and persons with whom I already feel comfortable.

When we accept the idea that diversity is uniquely glorifying to God, that God is present in diversity, and that diversity helps us to become more like Christ, the question then becomes, How can I embrace diversity wherever God brings it to me?

The answer, as with so many things in life, is by beginning here and now with where I am and with those whom God has placed around me. We embrace diversity by welcoming it as we would welcome Christ, wherever and whenever we find it.

Where is God already bringing me things that are different from my norm? Where are the people or circumstances that deviate from what I expect or from what I am comfortable with? Is it in my team? My community? It may even be within myself—parts of me (physical or metaphysical) of which I am ashamed. Each of these examples represent ways that God desires to encounter us.

It may be that we don’t experience God as much as we would like because we have lost the ability to accept God in anything or anyone that isn’t uniform. Embracing diversity means embracing God however God chooses to show up—in others or in myself. Let us ask for the grace to think—and see God—outside of the box.  Let us ask for the grace to see God in diversity.

Questions for Reflection

Consider with me where there may be an invitation to embrace God through embracing diversity. Where is God bringing you things that are outside of your norm? Where are there people or circumstances that are different from what you expect or what you are comfortable with?

If you would like, invite God to speak to you in familiar and unfamiliar—comfortable and uncomfortable—people and circumstances. The following prayer could be used:

Christ, as a light illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield overshadow me.
Christ under me; Christ over me;
Christ beside me; on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
Lowly and meek, yet all powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
In the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
Lowly and meek, yet all powerful.
Christ as a light; Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me on my left and my right.

(From the Northumbria Community’s Celtic Daily Prayer)


Melissa Mettler experienced God’s love of diversity working as a missionary in Germany for 13 years. She now works with the ReNew team in ChurchNext as a spiritual director and spiritual formation associate to help pastors and ministry leaders discover God in the midst of their everyday lives. She lives near Portland, Oregon with her husband David and their two children.