The God For All Nations
Praise the Lord all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For his merciful time is great towards us, and the truth of the Lord endorses forever. Praise the Lord Psalms 117:1–2
Ethnocentric. It’s a pleasant sounding word, but it’s full of arrogance. When we think we are the only nation or race God blesses, we badly misunderstand the breadth and depth of the grace of God. Sure, He loves us with an undying love, but He loves everyone else on the planet just as passionately. He has no favorites.
The Israelites had been given a mandate to take the message of God‘s love to every nation, but they got wrapped up in their role as Gods chosen people. God chose them so they could bless others, not so they could remain in a“holy huddle“ On those few occasions when they did reach out to touch other cultures, God richly blessed them. When they withdrew into pride and exclusivity, God with drew his hand of blessing.
Our nation has gone through spasms of being incredibly inclusive, welcoming people of every land to join our melting pot, but also of being terribly exclusive, banning immigrants and treating those who came as second class citizens. Christians need to realize that God‘s grace transcends national boundaries, race, and culture, just as they needed to do so at other points in our history. God loves people from all over the globe, whether they’ve immigrated to America or live in the remotest deserts of foreign lands. Our primary task as believers is to break down the walls and love them into God‘s kingdom.
“God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise with out aid”.
God is inclusive but sometimes God’s people forget to include others especially those who aren’t like us. Often we forget that we all are Adam’s race irregardless of where our ancestors were from. In our world today we seem to major on our differences. We identify ourselves by race, creed, social and economic classes, political persuasions and denominations. It’s not that we should become a generic bland group where everyone becomes like everyone else. God loves diversity and each person, community or nation are equally loved by Him. I don’t think that the things we use to divide and separate us here will be present there. We won’t just be with our church or denomination group or segregated and identified by race or culture or anything else. We will be united as the adopted children of God.
I wonder what would have happened if the Israelites made their identity as ministers of reconciliation rather than an identity of nationalism. Jesus came into a divided world of Jew and Gentile. As you read the gospels you discover that Christ reached across boundaries and barriers. Christ touched the untouchables such as lepers and tax collectors and women of ill repute. He ate with sinners, drank water provided by a Samaritan and healed a Syrophoenician woman’s child. Although He was the Messiah, the deliver of the Jews, He instructed His disciples to take the gospel to every creature in every nation. His mission has not changed. His church still has that mandate.
I wonder what His church would look like if we took serious the Great Commission. I’m sure it’s face would change. There might be less buildings as the church came together in worship, breaking down walls.
Sometimes we talk about the fact that God loves the world but do we as His church live the world too? Would we give up our exclusive ways and open our hearts to the lost of any person? Could we feel comfortable having people different than us sitting beside us in worship? I’m certainly not suggesting that we embrace religious belief systems contrary to Christ. I’m not suggesting that becoming inclusive is creating an atmosphere of acceptance of every lifestyle. Jesus embraced people of diversity but He didn’t accept their behaviors and lifestyles. The leper was commanded to show himself to the priest, the woman in adultery was told to “go and sin no more.” The tax collector restored all he had cheated people of. The disciples were called away from fishing to follow. So though Jesus rejected none, none became His follower without change and neither will we or anyone else.
Often we pride ourselves as being a “melting pot” nation but in truth we have reluctantly opened our arms to the migrants. We tell ourselves that a Christians we want everyone to be saved but we gather week after week with our same group passing by many homes with broken people on the way to our gathering. It’s not that we mean to be exclusive, it’s just that we aren’t deliberately inclusive.
Often I dream of a church made up of a multi-generational and multi-international group of believers worshipping together, fellowshipping together, serving together, and being together. Maybe I’m just thinking about heaven.
Our challenge is to recognize that we are creatures of habit who enjoy being in the same atmosphere with those just like us. That way we know how to interact. We might have to learn new ways and new things. But then it might be good to do that before heaven.
So why don’t you engage in a conversation with some not like you today. You just might be surprised how much richer it will make your life. You might even learn something new. It really can be an amazing experience. If you’ve never had the privilege to worship with the international community you have no idea what you’re missing.
Let us ask God for grace to invite and include those not quite like us. What a blend that would be!
Sent from my iPad
Dr. John Thompson