Just for a moment, I want you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine yourself in heaven. Perhaps you’re walking the golden streets of the new Jerusalem, and beside fellow saints, you stroll together along the crystal shores of the river of life. As you ascend the steps, nearing the throne of God, you are greeted by thousands, millions of people singing the most beautiful song you’ve ever heard. But think about the other people there with you. What do they look like? Do they all look like you? Is the vision in your minds-eye shaped by Scripture? “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…”(Rev 7:9). In the Bible, we see that heaven will be a place of perfect unity, and yet our differences will not be swallowed up.
Now, what we believe about our future reality impacts our behavior in our present reality. And what is our present reality in regards to racial & cultural differences? In an NBC News poll taken this past summer, 65% of Americans said that racism is still a major problem in this country. Another 30% conceded that racism exists, but don’t think it’s a serious problem. Adding those two figures together, we see that 95% of Americans believe that racism still is alive and well in this country. Racism can be a somewhat ambiguous term, but we’re referring to an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races.
The better way is the way of Jesus
I think all of us can agree that this is evil. But what can be done about it? We want our present reality to reflect more and more that glorious future reality. Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” But too often, especially those of us in the white majority culture, do nothing, myself included. We do nothing, we say nothing, because we don’t know what to say, we don’t know what to ask. And frankly, we often fall into one of two ditches when presented with racial or cultural differences - we either pretend the differences aren’t there, or we call attention to them in a negative way, even unintentionally. We lack awareness of the differences of our dear brothers & sisters, and we fail to recognize the biases that every single one of us carry around.
The better way is the way of Jesus. In Romans 15, Paul addresses two distinct cultural groups this way, “May the God of endurance [we’ll need endurance, because it’s hard] and encouragement [you’ll get discouraged] grant you to live in such harmony with one another [this peace is a gift from God], in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Our differences, in Christ, do not have to divide us. In fact, as we embrace them and seek to listen and learn from one another, we experience the glory of God even more fully.
So my humble exhortation to you this morning is this: Open your eyes, and open your ears, to encounter the beautiful diversity of the people of God around you, and strive daily to understand one another better, and welcome one another in light of the future diverse reality we’re all longing for.