“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.””
“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Here we have two quotes. One from the book of Revelation, giving a picture of God’s future Kingdom, the perfect ideal. One from Martin Luther King Jr. giving a picture of what is, the imperfect present. While I know that the reason for our present realities are not all negative (style preferences, locations, etc.) we shouldn’t let those things draw us to ignoring the opportunity to move toward the perfect ideal.
John’s vision of “every nation, tribe, people and language” should have us asking ourselves: “Do we look like what John sees?” Another way to put this is: Are we practicing eternity? If God’s eternal kingdom is filled with “every nation, tribe, people and language,” are our churches? Are our homes? Again, I know this is more nuanced than a simple blog post, but if we look at our surrounding culture and compare it to our friendships and our churches and the two don’t look similar, it should lead us to ask why? As followers of Christ we should fight against social or racial isolation in our life, for the glory and proper representation of God’s Kingdom.
While I hope no one would embrace racism in their lives, I think prejudice seeps its way into all of our lives. Prejudice is when you look at someone with suspicion or negativity because of their grouping or way they look. Instead of dismissing our responsibility to racial reconciliation because “I’m not racist,” we need to take a long, hard look at our lives, our relationships, our interactions and ask: Where do I have prejudice that is leading me away from practicing eternity?
If we take the time to be honest about our prejudices, bringing them to God in prayer and repentance, and pursuing relationships outside of our homogeneity, we can move toward racial reconciliation, understanding, and a fuller picture of God’s beautiful, multi-ethnic, multi-racial kingdom. Or we could sit back, say, “it’s not our problem,” and ignore whatever prejudice we have because “that’s just the way it is…” If that is where your heart is, let me remind you of this little verse that, perhaps you love to quote for yourself:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not die but have eternal life…” (John 3:16)
Now, read it realizing that Jesus was talking to a religious leader about God’s expanding plan for EVERYONE… not just for you…
“For God so love the world (Black, White, Hispanic, Asian… poor, rich, young, old… every nation, tribe, people and language) that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not die but have eternal life.”
May we not just claim John 3:16 for ourselves, but may we use this verse as the motivation for racial reconciliation. May we use the verses in Revelation as aspiration to move to a truer representation of eternity now, and may we use Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote as an opportunity to critique ourselves away from our prejudices and toward being churches of greater diversity.