We might like to think the American Church is racially united, but it’s not. In fact, as many have noted, Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week in the U.S. This separation is due at least partly to the fact that Asian, Latino, black, and white Christians often have very different style preferences for worship.
The fact is we not only have different tastes, but like all humans, even we Christians tend to think our style is best. One African American friend of mine says, with a blend of humor and honesty, that merging racially different churches together requires us to figure out who is willing to feel most uncomfortable.
Thankfully, there are increasing numbers of churches that have a wonderful blend of ethnicities in their congregations, and on their pastoral staffs. These churches are working to discover an admirable unity of the Kingdom.
If we want our churches to look more like heaven will look someday, we will need to embrace and practice some attitudes that are based on biblical passages that shed light on ethnic differences within the Kingdom of Heaven.
1. Variety and diversity are God’s concepts, not man’s. Genesis 1:11, 12; Acts 17:26
“Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”
- The enormous diversity in ocean life, plant life, and the Animal Kingdom reveal God’s intentional design for variety.
- The 500 references in Scripture to “the nations,” from the Greek “ethnos,” reveal God’s love of diversity in mankind as well.
- Though we have differences, we all came from one man. We share ancestors— Adam and Eve. And from those common “parents” God made the nations.
2. National/ethnic rage and violence are man’s concepts, not God’s. Psalm 2: 1, 2; Isaiah 17:12
“Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord.”
“Woe to the many nations that rage— they rage like the raging sea! Woe to the peoples who roar— they roar like the roaring of great waters!”
- Our nations, our ethnic distinctions, rage against each other and against God.
- Human history is a long, unending story of violence directed against those we condescendingly determine to be our enemies.
- The one matter we may agree on is rage against God.
- Despite any differences in our skin shade, languages, and ethnic history, all nations share in the guilt of rage and violence.
3. Jesus teaches us to stand out by our kindness toward those who are different. Luke 10:30-37
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” V. 33
- A Jewish priest, religious leader, and then a Levite, a Jewish religious servant, passed by and ignored a fellow Jew in desperate need.
- A Samaritan, another ethnos, hated by Jews as half-breeds, stops, and cares for the injured Jew.
- What is Jesus’ point? “Go and do likewise.”
- Serve and care for those who are of different ethnicities than us.
4. We should intentionally cross racial bridges with respectful humility and genuine love. John 4:1-26
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” V. 23, 24
- Historically Jesus should have had nothing to do with a Samaritan, especially a woman.
- He respectfully approached her despite their ethnic differences.
- He humbly put himself in her debt.
- He kindly spoke transformational spiritual truth and insight to her.
5. We should stop forcing our external preferences on others. Acts 15:1-21
“God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.” V. 8, 9
- The fledgling Church had disputes due to ethnic differences long before we did.
- Legalistic, judgmental spiritual leaders condemn those who are different from them, and insist they become the same.
- Paul, Peter and James all urged the growing, diverse Church to accept different practices in one another.
6. Differences in the Body of Christ have a sacred purpose. I Cor. 12
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” V. 12-14
- Just as a physical body has multiple parts, so does the spiritual Body of Christ.
- The parts are all necessary and should be honored, not judged, for their differences.
- We all need one another in order to be whole.
Someday, perhaps soon, all of the nationalities, ethnicities and races that compose the Kingdom of Heaven will worship the Lord in unbridled, non-judgmental joy. Let’s allow ourselves the privilege of a preview by practicing respectful unity with one another, even as that Day approaches.
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, their daughter Gemma and son Calvin. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.