All of us who have lived through this past year are aware of the difficulties of the racial tensions within our culture—the massacre in Charleston, racially related police violence, and offensive statements made by politicians and candidates. If anything, these events continue to show us that achieving racial unity is challenging both in our country and within the church.
The book of Acts tells the story of the church’s struggle to move beyond its obvious differences—from a Jewish context to the rest of the world. Paul, like so many of the Jewish males of his day, had probably given thanks daily that he was not born a woman, slave, or Gentile. However, following his conversion, Paul wrote about the radical access God brings about when men and women come to the Savior from all different kinds of backgrounds.
He wrote to the Colossians that in Christ “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col 3:11). While not oblivious to the real circumstances and distinctions of earthly life, in relationship to God and in fellowship with one another in the body of Christ, one’s standing is secure and acceptable because of the radical change Christ brings.
To the Galatians Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:28–29). The restrictions that kept people from accessing God now no longer exist, Paul explains. In the same way, the stipulations the world tries to impose on us because of our differences should not determine how we relate to one another. We need to live the way Christ wants us to live—united in him.
Diversity within the body of Christ has been the DNA of Christianity from the first century, and especially of the church—and the Lord delights in it. The gifts and talents that the Holy Spirit has given to his church get displayed in all different ways for his glory. If your local church family looks like mine, you will see all kinds of people—all of them working together for his glory.
Human history demonstrates that diversity can too often complicate life and contradict holiness, but in Christ, a place where by grace we belong, we find unity. Let us, “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). With this prayer, may we who belong to God’s family always celebrate and prioritize our Christian family identity and unity in Christ as the truest definition of our lives regardless of the color of our skin, cultural differences, or socio-economic backgrounds.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Rev 7:9–10).