It was two weeks ago that we celebrated Epiphany Sunday. When the wise men arrived from the east to worship Jesus, Joseph & Mary had an epiphany. They realized that Jesus was not just the king of Israel but the rightful King of all nations and ethnicities. The apostle Paul teased out the implications for the church. The gospel does not just signal reconciliation with God but it also signals reconciliation with one another. The mystery of the gospel is that “the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body” (Ephesians 3:6). For this reason, a reconciled, multi-ethnic church should be a passion and a priority. A multi-ethnic church is not the goal of the gospel. But it should be the natural result of the gospel.
But there are other practical reasons for us to pursue a multi-ethnic church. Nearly fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 20th century.”
The reputation of the church and the claims of the gospel are on the line. Does the gospel hold the answer for the challenges of our day? Does the gospel truly bring about reconciliation between diverse people groups – even ones that have a history of hatred and animosity? A skeptical world is looking to see if our actions validate our words.
Unfortunately, the church has often been one of the most segregated places in our culture. With a wide-spread resurgence of racial tensions in our country, the church once again has a unique opportunity to demonstrate the transforming power of God’s grace. It is not easy to step out of our comfort zone. It takes intentional effort to foster a sense of unity with people who are different. But we need to remember that it is our radical, self-sacrificing, cross-cultural, eye-catching unity that will convince a lost world (John 17:20-26).
Photo credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Image-Notting_Hill_Carnival_Crowd_-_August_2006.jpg