Right now the world is watching. They want to know if their suspicions are true. They look at the Church and see the most segregated hour of the week on Sunday mornings from 10-12. They hear us talking about loving each other and respecting each other, but they do not see a lot of arms linking up. When it comes down to it, what are we going to show them?
I know where your heart is, or at least I think I do. We truly believe we are one race with different ethnicities. That is the Biblical model. There is no support whatsoever for multiple human races. If there was, we wouldn’t be able to have babies together; we wouldn’t be able to have blood transfusions or organ transplants. But we do have these things! It is beyond silly to believe in superior or inferior races. So we won’t even go there. Where we will go is where the culture has allowed us to go for the last several hundred years here in America, and that is far more than socially distanced ethnicities. I am not talking about Equal Opportunity or integration in the schools. Those are topics people in other places than the Church can deal with. I am talking about the Body of Christ choosing to act like a unified Body rather than multiple separate entities divided by skin color.
Moses marries Zippora, Salmon marries Rahab, and their son Boaz marries Ruth. The covenant God made with Israel was never intended to be secretive or exclusive. Faithful people of different ethnicities were always welcome to join the covenant community. Today our community isn’t bound to any particular nation but to those who have been marked by the blood of Jesus. This community is called the Church. If we cannot live within the boundaries set for us by men like Salmon and Boaz, men in the genealogy of Jesus, then we have a serious problem.
Again, I do not believe any of us think with separated hearts. We just, for reasons of culture and habit, choose to separate ourselves in worship. Can we not change this? If a town in Southwest AR can show the watching world that it is humble enough to worship with its blood kin, what kind of effect would that have on the world around us? I dare say burning buildings and harassed police officers would not be their response. Instead I believe love engenders love and unity encourages more unity, don’t you? What does this look like? How do we cross the worship divide?
What if instead of starting with hard plans that can be broken or methods that can be changed, we begin with our attitudes. There is a story in the book of Acts that is a perfect mirror for the times we are walking through. You may remember it as the sheet vision. We find it in Acts chapter 10. The story goes like this: Peter is hungry and God gives him a vision of edible animals. The only problem is none of them are animals Peter’s culture will allow him to eat. Peter refuses and the vision repeats itself three times. God responds to Peter’s refusal by saying “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
It would be tempting to make this vision about food and encouraging Peter to eat some pork BBQ, but that is not where the Bible takes us. The very next step in the story finds Peter being placed by God in front of a group of non-Jews, a group of people he had formerly distanced himself from. We hear God’s words about clean and common and immediately we are required to apply them to people. In other words, we are expected to put all of those made in God’s image on the same plane. God’s response to Peter’s obedience is to invite these newcomers into His Kingdom and fill them with His Spirit.
Here’s the rub for us. Black, white and Hispanic believers each put themselves in the position of Peter and all others who are different than them in the position of the waiting Gentiles. We all think that we are the ones who have it right and it is within our power to invite or deny others the right to come in. The problem with this assumption is (most likely) none of us are Jews. None of us are in the line of Abraham or David. We are all a part of the number who would not be able to come into the Kingdom had Peter and the others not invited us.
If we can humble ourselves beyond the position of original Christians we can come to the place of unity. We are all grafted into this Body. The beautiful thing is there is no hierarchy. When we see the believers gathered around the Throne in Revelation there is no distinction between Jew or Gentile, black or white, male or female.
Will you pray through this story and others, seeking the end of unity with our brothers and sisters of different ethnicities? Let’s begin here and let the Spirit lead us to the next step. I can’t wait to sing beside you!