A Christian’s Response to Multiculturalism, Race, and Ethnicity

A Christian’s Response to Multiculturalism, Race, and Ethnicity July 22, 2018

A Christian’s Response to Multiculturalism, Race, and Ethnicity

A Christian’s Response to Multiculturalism, Race, and Ethnicity

Revelation 7:9-17

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow black and white

They are precious in His sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world

What happened to the beautiful vision of that song? We live in a world that is sharply divided. Blue versus Red. Democrat versus Republican. White versus Black or Brown. People easily decide to fall into different camps as if competition the only option. So we struggle with this idea that we must be in competition with one another. We are in a world that automatically puts people in categories. One of those categories is about culture. In the past, Christians have tried to deal with this struggle about how to the share the Gospel in a particular culture.

There has been a theory about missions called the homogenous unit principle. This was a way of defining how to share the Gospel with other groups of people. Developed in the 1960s by David McGraven, the homogenous unit principle (HUP) “was intended to prevent people from thinking that they must adopt the language and culture of the missionary, or any other people group, in order to receive Christ and grow in their faith.”1

This has led to a form of ethnocentric missions in which Americans send out missionaries and teach American methods of building churches to give an American interpretation of the Gospel. It would be like asking someone from California to come out here to Washburn in which they try to teach us how to share the Gospel in the way they do it out in Los Angeles. It works in some ways, but it creates conflict in other ways. It tries to cookie-cut missions in ways that it should not be.

On the other end of the missions spectrum, there has been an attempt to integrate different cultures into the church. In recent years, there have been movements for integration in the church. In my own experience, I have seen a convention form that focused primarily on international, Baptistic, English-language churches. The idea is that people would come together, no matter what their background and ethnicity to worship with each other using English as the primary language.

We see a picture of this unity as seen in Heaven in the future. The Bible shows these divisions that people have used to separate from each other. For example:

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9, CSB)

This harks back to Genesis. In the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, people were meant to be unified in their worship of God. Instead, they were unified in their opposition to God.

There is a worldly unity which strives to promote its own agenda. The episode of the Tower of Babel illustrates this idea very well. At one time, everyone spoke and wrote the same language. The first action of a people who have the same language is to come together and promote themselves – “make a name for ourselves (Genesis 11:4). This is worldly unity.

Worldly unity does not think about God. Worldly unity does not think about others. Instead, worldly unity thinks about the self. Eventually, one person ends up thinking falsely that they should rule everyone else. One man puts himself in the place of God. This is what happens when people build towers that reach the sky. God confused their language (Babel means confusion) to prevent this from continuing. Why? Because when a group of people thinks they can reach the sky, they will trust in themselves and not God. They will start to believe in worldly unity – a false unity.

Why is worldly unity false? Don’t we like World Cups, Olympics, Eurovision Song Contests and the United Nations? Don’t they promote diversity in unity? Yes. However, in each of these cases, one has to lead. There is a leader to the unity. The danger is that people will follow the leader instead of God. Then it becomes not worldly unity, but a dictatorship. God wants us to follow Him, not a world dictator.

We see that the reason God separated people throughout the world was that without His leadership, people would oppose each other. Only through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross can we have the opportunity for true unity. God has been at work to reshape the story so that everyone can come to Him. We see this throughout the Bible:

Ruth, a Moabitess becomes part of the family tree of Jesus. Jonah, a Jew, becomes a missionary to the Gentiles in Nineveh. Lydia, a businesswoman, becomes the founder of the church of Philippi.

The deacon ministry starts as a result of dealing with the conflict between Greek-speaking and Hebrew-speaking Jews. As we move forward, we see that God is uniting people through the Gospel. He did it in Acts 2. When you read the events of Pentecost you see that people came from all over the world to celebrate Pentecost at Jerusalem. It is there that God used Peter to preach his sermon about Jesus. In Revelation, we see an angel present the “everlasting Gospel” to everyone, no matter how they are affiliated:

Then I saw another angel flying high overhead, with the eternal gospel to announce to the inhabitants of the earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people.” (Revelation 14:6, CSB)

The world is pursuing worldly unity, a unity that will eventually be in opposition to God and His message. At the same time, God is moving His people to be unity.

That brings me to this passage. Here, we see some characteristics of a future picture of unity that we can apply today. The first characteristic of future unity that we can have today, and which is a Christian response to multiculturalism is this:

CHARACTERISTICS OF FUTURE UNITY THAT WE CAN HAVE TODAY

1. While there may be different people, we still worship the same Jesus.

I said to him, “Sir, you know.” Then he told me: These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14, CSB)

Dr. Tony Evans illustrations this point very well when he says:

God is not asking blacks to be whites or whites to be blacks. He’s asking both to be biblical. If I say I am a black Christian and somebody else says that they’re a white Christian, what they’ve done is made black or white an adjective. The job of an adjective is to modify a noun.

If the word Christian is in the noun position and your race in the adjectival position, since the job of the adjective is to modify and explain the nature of the noun, that means you’ve always got to change the noun of your faith to reflect the adjective of your culture. However, the way it’s supposed to work is that your history, background, race, and culture are to be in the noun position. Your faith should always be in the adjectival position so that you’re always adjusting the noun of your culture to the adjective of your faith.

In other words, you’re bringing who you are—your history, your background, and your culture—to look like the adjectival description of what you say you believe about God and Jesus Christ.2

2. The Gospel celebrates while the world system oppresses and opposes.

The second response that a Christian needs to give in today’s multicultural world is this: The Gospel celebrates people. The world system oppresses and opposes people.

The Gospel is exclusive in the nature of it’s mission. There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. However, the Gospel is inclusive in the scope of it’s mission. The Bible is very clear that the Gospel is meant for everyone. God’s kingdom in Revelation 7 is a celebration that includes all kinds of people. The world’s kingdom represented in Revelation 13 is oppressive.

THE CONTRAST BETWEEN CELEBRATION OF DIVERSITY AND OPPRESSION OF SLAVERY

The contrast in Revelation is about the celebration of diversity versus slavery. Chapter 7 is placed in contrast with Chapter 13 in Revelation. In Revelation 7, it all about the celebration of God’s work. The diverse group of people all reveal how God worked for people. In the case of ethnicity in these verses, it is addressed from the point of what God has done for them. In Revelation 13, the Antichrist rules the world. In that case, the people are classified in terms of economic slavery. In other words, what the world will do, but not want to do, for the Antichrist. For example:

And it was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. It was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation.” (Revelation 13:7, CSB)

And it makes everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast’s name or the number of its name.” (Revelation 13:16–17, CSB)

Here in Revelation 7, the people of God are classified by the way that associate: tribe, people, language, and nation. We see this also in Revelation 5:9, Revelation 7:9, Revelation 11:9, and Revelation 14:6.

You may say that this passage in Revelation 13:7 is all about the Antichrist, and it is. But if you read in context, the Antichrist is opposing those who follow God. Here in this chapter, we see that in the fact that He starts to oppose God in Revelation 13:6. The Antichrist opposes God:

His Home (Revelation 13:6)

His People (Revelation 13:7)

His Dominion (Revelation 13:8)

God’s dominion is this world: every tribe, people, language, and nation. God is in the business of uniting everyone under His rule, in a positive way. There is no persecution of the kind of people we are and with whom we associate.

However, with the Antichrist, he oppresses people. He forces people to take up a form of ownership by class. So it doesn’t matter if you are great, rich, and free, or small, poor, and slave. The Antichrist doesn’t celebrate your uniqueness. Instead, he will force you to conform to His image – almost literally.

You have to listen to the voice of his image (Revelation 13:15)

You have to worship his image (Revelation 13:15)

You can only exist under the authority of his name (Revelation 13:16)

This is not the case with God. Here, we have a God who includes everyone. You know that by the different ways that people express their thanks to God. This leads me to my third observation about how a Christian should respond to multiculturalism, race, and ethnicity.

3. Heaven will be multicultural, yet in complete harmony.

THREE GROUPS THAT REPRESENT HARMONY IN HEAVEN

1. Every Christian (“before the throne”)

Everyone, those from every tribe, nation, people and language, they cry out to God:

“And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10, CSB)

For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple. The one seated on the throne will shelter them:” (Revelation 7:15, CSB)

2. Every servant (“around the throne”)

All the angels stood around the throne, and along with the elders and the four living creatures they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God,” (Revelation 7:11, CSB)

Everyone in Heaven’s throne cries out to God:

saying, Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 7:12, CSB)

3. The Triune God (“the center of the throne”)

For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; he will guide them to springs of the waters of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17, CSB)

John: To the seven churches in Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,” (Revelation 1:4, CSB)

Flashes of lightning and rumblings and peals of thunder came from the throne. Seven fiery torches were burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.” (Revelation 4:5, CSB)

Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth.” (Revelation 5:6, CSB)

Heaven will not be segregated. There are no separate places for blacks, whites, reds, yellows, and browns.

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow, brown, black and white

They are precious in His sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world

1 Eric Hyatt, “Missions Sunday: From Homogeneous to a Heterogeneous Unit Principle” https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/from-homogeneous-to-heterogeneous-unit-principle.html, accessed on 18 July 2018.

2 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 242.

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