An airport departure lounge has got to be one of the best places in which to view the diversity of the human race. Having time to while away offers the opportunity to marvel at the shapes, sized and colours in which humanity is available. Add in the different styles of dress favoured by different ‘ethnic’ groups and different age groups, and there is never a dull moment for the dedicated people-watcher. Over the years I have spent quite a few hours in airports, and if the book hasn’t quite gripped the attention, or if nothing on the MP3 player fits the mood, there is no shortage of interesting people to observe. Who are they? Where are they going? What are they thinking? What are their problems? Is he looking at me?
Such a diversity of people. All made in the image of God, yet no two exactly the same. Not even twins are entirely identical. What could demonstrate more clearly the infinite richness of the mind of the Creator? So much delightful variety, so much to appreciate, so many ways in which his image can be translated into human terms. Yes, the fall has marred that image in many ways, and yet it has not been erased. Still something of God’s glory remains, despite the damage. It is the same with the entire physical creation which is groaning in its ‘bondage to decay’ according to Paul in Romans 8, yet which also manifests breathtaking beauty. An hour in the departure lounge can be a recipe for boredom, or a source of praise to the Creator.
And the best is yet to come! The creation will be liberated from that bondage to decay by the power of the Creator, and that will take place when God’s redeemed children are transformed fully into the likeness of their Saviour and will share his glory (Romans 8 again). Indeed ‘we shall be like him, because we will see him as he is’ (I John 3:2).
It is a wonderful prospect to contemplate – and we will not be clones, we will not be like identical peas in a pod. All the rich diversity that we have known on earth will be taken up by the Lord, cleansed of the effects of sin and transformed into something utterly glorious. Each redeemed sinner will be everything that God has made and re-made him to be, a unique expression of the image of God, manifesting the likeness of God as it is displayed in the personality of that particular individual. The entirety of redeemed humanity will be an eternal expression of the richness of the Creator, and yet there will be so much more to learn about him that eternity will be insufficient. The children of God have so much to look forward to, knowing that in every respect they will glorify the Lord perfectly.
How sad that some would like to have a church filled with clones – usually clones of themselves. How good it would be, they seem to think, to have everyone just like me – a church where we all think alike, act alike, speak alike, even look alike (perhaps the most frightening!). A church were anyone who isn’t just like me is a bit suspect, maybe not even really converted. Conformity is the order of the day, the safe path to get through church life unscathed. Just one snag – that’s not how the Lord has made us, or how he is re-making us in his grace. His holy Word is our absolute authority, our rule of life, but within its generous borders we are to be uniquely the selves God made us to be, a multitude of expressions of the richness of an infinitely complex and wonderful God. Uniform grey is not the colour of his Kingdom.