It was with a good deal of impish glee that I drove myself up to the DMV last week to get my learner’s permit. Of course, my Mom was in the passenger seat, and this would be my third time getting a permit, so there was nothing illegal or truly rebellious about it – I was simply giving up my Indiana permit to get another Pennsylvania one. In any case, I pulled into the lot of 131 Rohrerstown Road, and in we went.
The DMV is a sort of people-watcher’s dream. You have a constantly shifting population in a room with lots of lines and seats and buzzing-beeping lighty-uppy intercom things – so basically, an amusement park with lots of rides but no roller coasters. And we’re not just talking people with enough money to blow on a day at the amusement park. We’re talking everyone. Everyone who wants to be somewhat functional in our society comes to the DMV. So you have your bright-eyed 16 year-old girls and their proud-but-nervous parents, you have guys like the gruff, hefty, not-at-all-interested-in-conversation gentleman I sat next to, you’ve got people whose English proficiency is barely enough for them to scrape through the red tape, and you’ve got the very-well-to-do, who, despite their high position in society, cannot escape the long lines through which all motorists must go.
As Mom and I sat there together between the gruff gentleman and a friendly young African American lady, we talked about the remarkable diversity present at the DMV. “I wish church looked like this,” I said to her.
Imagine that. Trade out the buzzing-beeping lighty-uppy intercom things (or keep ‘em, if you like) for some pews, or some rocks under a tree, or a couch in someone’s basement, or wherever your part of the global Church meets, but keep the same people there. Don’t “fix them up” (the rich ones OR the poor ones) – just take them as they are. Now I don’t know what you’re picturing, but to me it is starting to look a lot more like Revelation 7:9-10, where it says “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice,“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
I don’t intend to make this a dissertation on diversity in the Church. However, if we as the Church are to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1), then not only should we strive to act in accordance with His love, but I believe we should reflect God’s Triune character, the very essence of His being, which He has revealed to be a diversity in complete unity – three distinct Persons who are yet one. So the next time you drag your feet to the DMV (or happily skip there, though I think the former is more common), look around the room while you are waiting. (Odds are, you will have a good bit of time for such an activity!) Look at the people, a snapshot of your local flavor of diversity, whether it be racial or socioeconomic. If you have received God’s free offer of salvation, I would encourage you to think of the scene at the DMV as a little preview of the kind of people you will stand with at the end of the world before the throne of the Lamb as you declare the goodness of your God. And think of how we as Christians can seek to work today for a beautiful “unity in diversity” in the Church that reflects the nature of our Triune God.