We had a remarkable turnout for our discussion of The Gospel and Cultural Diversity hosted at our Olathe Campus. Christ Community was profoundly blessed by the presence and teaching of Dr. Peter Cha, Professor of Church, Culture and Society, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Over 300 people from throughout our city were in attendance. The evening was a great time of learning, sharing, wisdom, and hope.
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In light of this discussion, the question is undoubtedly being asked “So now what? Where do we go from here?” The real measure of its impact is determined by what we do next.
Here is a suggestion of four things to consider as we seek to cultivate fruit from the seeds Dr. Cha has planted.
STEP ONE: LEARN
I know what you are thinking. “Of course, a pastor would recommend this as the first action step.” But I don’t suggest this step flippantly. While learning isn’t the only action step, it should be one of our first because we can’t repent of and work towards that which we don’t understand. And in many ways, the learning we need is not so much about other cultures but our own culture.
For those of us in the majority culture, it is easy to be oblivious to how normative our own culture is and how we simply assume that the way we do things is just the normal way to do things. In other words, we may struggle to work towards cultural diversity because we don’t think we have a culture ourselves. The work towards cultural diversity requires the humble posture of learning about cultures, including our own. One book that I have found helpful in understanding this reality as a member of the majority culture is White Awake by Daniel Hill.
STEP TWO: RELATE
We cannot expect to be a culturally diverse church if we don’t live culturally diverse lives. This is perhaps the most convicting and challenging step for me personally. The work of growing in cultural diversity on Sunday actually begins on Monday. I think one of the greatest barriers to cultural diversity is the lack of proximite relationships. It is difficult for us to address problems and work towards solutions that don’t personally impact us and those who are most like us.
Proximity is one of the key elements in helping us see issues in our world as personal before we see them as political. When a problem in our world doesn’t impact us directly then we are more likely to label it as political. But when the problem impacts me and my community then we are more likely to label it as personal.
This is why the power of proximity and relating to those who are different from us is so central to the work of cultural diversity. It is what enables us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).
Proximity breeds empathy and relationship. Distance breads suspicion and disregard.
STEP THREE: ADVOCATE
When we see discrimination and injustices played out among us, either individually or systemically, we cannot remain silent. To say nothing is to say something. We should advocate for justice, repent of our complicit role or passive indifference towards it, and boldly and lovingly speak out against such behaviors and mindsets when we observe them.
Now, while we all have influence there is a unique stewardship that people have in positions of power and privilege to be advocates of justice. Especially those with financial, political, social, intellectual, and employment power.
For those of us in the majority culture, we should speak up and advocate for those who are marginalized and discriminated against (Proverbs 31:8-9). We cannot expect our brothers and sisters of color to carry the torch of gospel-driven racial justice and cultural diversity on their own. To leave the work of cultural diversity up to those who are culturally diverse from us is a way of saying that this issue, as important as it may be, is not my problem.
The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to a higher and fuller understanding of community and social ethics. When you identify yourself with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection through faith (Romans 6:1-11) you are identifying yourself with His church (Eph 2:19-22). And when that happens, we now have the blessed responsibility to share in the joys and the pains of our brothers and sisters in Christ. As the author of Hebrews tells us, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”
The gospel compels us to be a people who see the problems of our neighbors as our problems. Indeed that is what our Lord Jesus did for us by literally becoming our problems and nailing them to the cross (1 Peter 2:24).
STEP FOUR: PRAY
Let’s specifically and regularly pray that God would open our eyes to our blindspots and prejudices, that we would be willing to repent of any attitudes, behaviors, or mindsets that perpetuate the division we see in culture.
Pray that God would cultivate greater compassion and understanding in us towards those who are different from us.
Pray that God would develop and deepen relationships in our lives that display the reconciling power of Jesus (Ephesians 2:11-19) among the witnessing community of the church to a watching and weary world. And that through this work we would increasingly reflect the picture we see of God’s people in Revelation 7 where people from all tribes, tongues, and nations are gathered together “crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:10).
WHY THIS MATTERS
Friends, this is the great and glorious end of the gospel-driven work of cultural diversity. It is not about diversity for diversity’s sake. Nor is it about creating a more civil society of harmony and peace. No, the goal is much greater than that. It is the goal that is so powerfully expressed by the words of Jemar Tisby, who said:
In that heavenly congregation we will finally see the culmination of God’s gathering. A diverse people unified by faith in Christ. We will surround the throne of the lamb as a redeemed picture of all the ethnic and cultural diversity that God created. Our skin color will no longer be a source of pain or arrogant pride, but will serve as a mulli-hued reflection of God’s image. We will no longer be alienated by our earthly economic or social position. We will no longer clamor for power over one another. Our single focus will be worshiping God for eternity in sublime fellowship with each other and our creator.
-Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise
Come, Lord Jesus, and do a new work in and through us for your glory and the good of your people.