Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.”
I make my living as a corporate communications consultant, focusing almost exclusively on sales force initiatives. When discussing tactics like video or print materials with clients, diversity inevitably pops up. Their aim is to reflect a widely heterogeneous organization, which seems admirable if not always accurate. Still, these meetings leave me uneasy. The process contradicts the outcome: it works overtime to portray non-discrimination by highlighting differences it claims to ignore. I get what they’re trying to do, of course. The only way to foster blindness to our differences is increasing their visibility until they’re no longer distinctive. But it frustrates me we’ve not yet arrived where “diversity” is declassified and redefined as any group of individuals rather than a formulaic mix of surface traits. We’ve yet to realize individuality is the only characteristic we all share.
Out of the Margins
In Isaiah 56, God assembles a people from many nationalities and backgrounds, unified in devotion to Him. The Scripture says they’re bound to Him; they love and serve the Lord and hold fast to His promise. What stands out most about these people—foreigners and eunuchs—is their faithfulness and fervor despite marginalization by the religious majority. Judaic law clung to Israel’s exclusive title as “God’s people,” excluded foreigners from worship, and forbade eunuchs from entering the temple (Deuteronomy 23.1). Yet here God calls these ostracized individuals out of the margins to stand among His people with full access to His presence. “These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer,” He says, “for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56.7)
People, Not Policy
It’s possible to misread this as a sort of revised diversity agenda—God’s plan to fill His house with a potpourri reflecting an increasingly diverse populace. If we look closely, though, we discover that people, not policy, drive His decision. The invitation rewards the outcasts’ determination to love and serve Him, whether or not the mainstream confirmed their right to do so. They didn’t wait for anyone’s approval; they didn’t need it. Solid faith in God’s acceptance was sufficient.
Isaiah tells the foreigners, “Don’t say you’ll be excluded,” and advises the eunuchs against saying, “I’m of no use.” Were he with us today, he might put it like this: “Reject rejection and stop putting yourself down! God loves you, He wants you, and He needs you.” He desires His house to be a welcome, safe place for all people—including me, including you.
Well, at least he's half-right...