In my nine years as president of Biola University, I have seen firsthand how valuable diversity is for a learning community like ours. There is nothing quite like living alongside people whose diverse backgrounds and perspectives challenge our assumptions and broaden our horizons.
essential component of healthy university
Diversity is an essential component of any healthy university, but I think at a Christ-centered university like Biola it is even more essential.
Diversity is not just an educational value. It’s a biblical priority. We should not think of diversity as a political word. It’s a theological word. It’s a gospel word.
In the earliest days of Christianity, the apostle Paul was adamant that the cross of Christ leveled the playing field in a stratified society. The cross did away with the dividing walls of hostility that were deeply ingrained in the culture and systems of the Ancient Near East.
Jew and Gentile. Male and female. Rich and poor.
The vision of the gospel is reconciliation among the diverse people of the world who have ample reason to mistrust each other and segregate from one another. The vision of the gospel is not to downplay our differences or to be “colorblind,” but rather to gather a diverse people together as one new people, a body with many members, envisioning now the future scene in heaven where people from every nation, tribe and language will stand before the throne of God together in worship of the Lamb.
This picture, which the book of Revelation paints for us and the Pentecost moment in Acts foreshadows, is what the gospel does. It not only bridges the gap between each of us and God, but between one person and another. Black and white. Democrat and Republican. Immigrant and citizen. Privileged and marginalized.
My friends, if we are not valuing and practicing and celebrating diversity as the Biola community, I don’t think we can truly call ourselves a gospel-centered community.
If we are gospel-centered at Biola, we will not only say we value diversity, but we will live as if we do. We will have an ethos where diversity and unity are valued so much that living this way becomes our second nature.
easier said than done
Yet this is easier said than done. To live side by side with people who are different from us, to truly embrace our differences and learn to love them, is hard. It’s messy and uncomfortable. It was messy for Paul and the New Testament churches, and it’s still messy for us today. America in 2016 is not an easy place to have this conversation and to truly strive for a stronger ethos of diversity.
And yet we must never grow weary of striving after it. We must “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” as Paul says in Ephesians 4.
We must recommit ourselves to creating a pervasive ethos of diversity here at Biola, not because it is politically correct but because it is biblically correct.
Next Monday night, Oct. 10, I will be speaking about specific ways we can build this ethos of diversity at Biola. This event, which will also include remarks from Provost Deborah Taylor, Vice Provost for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement Pamela Christian and other campus leaders, will be held in Calvary Chapel at 7 p.m. I encourage you to attend as we press on in our ongoing work to better reflect at Biola the beautiful diversity of the kingdom of God.