The multi-ethnic church race is not a sprint, but a marathon race for life. What will energize us in the midst of the challenges and obstacles that would drain us, exhaust us and lead us to call it quits rather than overcome? Solidarity in community is key. But what kind of community? A community sustained by the reality that the God revealed in Christ by the power of the Spirit has already run and won the race to make one people out of many nations, tribes, peoples, and languages.
Ephesians 2 speaks to the reality of what Christ has already accomplished. He has already broken down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles and has made them one (Ephesians 2:11-22). By extension, Jesus has broken down the dividing walls that exist between various people groups and sub-cultures in our day. We live now in light of what our Lord Jesus has done, is doing and will do in making his people one. Not only do we look back, but also we look forward to that future reality disclosed in Revelation 7:9-17. Here we find that God's community of people from a plethora of diverse backgrounds is one, centered round the throne in worship.
This is no pie in the sky wishful thinking that leads us toward escapism, but an eschatological vision firmly rooted in the history of God’s reconciling act of just love in Christ. With this constructive vision, we can overcome the negative forces that would cause us to abandon justice for hate, justice for status quo peace, and love for revenge-based justice.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's vision for a post-racialized, unified America sustained him in the face of the extreme hatred of Bull Connor that was demonically oppressive, the moderate though perhaps more diabolical resistance of white clergy who favored peace apart from justice, and militancy that wanted justice apart from love. Dr. King had a dream that sustained him, a dream that was rooted deeply in the American dream of unity. King’s dream was also shaped by the African American church’s biblical, prophetic vision of a just future in view of God’s reconciling power of love in Christ. Do we have such a dream? We need to live now in light of what Christ has completed and bring the future into the present through concrete practices of reconciliation that are loving, equitable, and just.
We need to realize that the God revealed in Christ has big shoulders, big lungs and strong legs to help us win each leg of the journey. Our firm hope in the revelation of God in Christ should energize us to run well the multi-ethnic church marathon race. This all-consuming vision of what God has done, is doing, and will do will keep us centered, secure and sustained in the face of the consumer-driven culture that would divide us over petty preferences. We shall overcome, for Jesus has already won the race.
I will be addressing these themes as I speak at Mosaix 2013 Multi-Ethnic Church Conference, November 5 - 6 in Long Beach, CA.
This piece is cross-posted at Patheos and The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. Comments made here are not monitored. To join the conversation, please comment on this post at Patheos.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths and Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.