I believe racial diversity in a local church is a good thing. And not a ‘if it happens that’s great’ good thing. I believe racial diversity is something that every church should seriously aim to achieve. Up to this point my only argument for such diversity is what it communicates about the saving work of Christ. A ‘white church’ say’s, Jesus can save white people. A ‘black church’ says, Jesus can save black people. A ‘hispanic church’ says, Jesus can save hispanic people…(I could go on but I think you get the point.) But Jesus Church says, Jesus can save people–white, black, hispanic, asian, and anything else you can think of. If you’re a person, Jesus can save you.
Recently, however, I added a second argument in favor of racial diversity. I came across it in Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Aquinas is nearly universally held as the greatest philosopher the church has ever seen. The Summa is one of his easier to read works, and, in my opinion, one of the most accessible works of Christian philosophy ever written. In the Summa Aquinas argues:
For God brought things into being in order that his goodness might be communicated to creatures and represented by them. And because his goodness could not be represented by one creature alone, he produced many different creatures so that what was wanting in one in the manifestation of the divine goodness might be supplied by another. For goodness, which in God is simple and uniform, in creatures is manifold and divided. Hence the whole universe together participates in the divine goodness more perfectly and represents it better than any single creature whatever (Summa Theologiae, 1.47.1)
Aquinas’ point was driven home one fall afternoon at Duke University. Rebekah was in the hospital and I was walking through Duke Gardens. Here’s what I saw.
Right in front of me was Aquinas’ argument. Such diversity in plant life, and a much more glorious and big picture of God than any one of those plants alone could have given me!
I think Aquinas’ argument can be applied to racial diversity. There is no single human race in existence that can alone display all the divine goodness. When combined our racial differences–which include phenotypic characteristics, geographic ancestry, physical appearance, and ethnicity–paint a much bigger and brighter picture of God’s goodness. So racial diversity says something about Christ’s ability to save AND the goodness and wonder of our God.
I need reminders of both of those truths on a regular basis. And what better place to be reminded than the community of the redeemed, the church? For those two reasons, let every church intentionally aim to reach every race represented in its community.