OUR CONNECTION MATTERS
27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
(Galatians 3:27-29, NIV)
Our third annual multicultural luncheon was held last Saturday in Cordele. People from across the conference gathered to celebrate unity in diversity. Looking across the room as we all moved to the front to share the bread and wine of the Lord’s supper, it occurred to me that this must be what heaven looks like: a multitude of people from different backgrounds with different skin colors and different accents all focused on Christ.
During the meeting, several pastors spoke about their congregations. The Rev. Dr. Nora Colmenares from the General Board of Global Ministries was the keynote speaker. One pastor spoke of living into what seemed like contradicting challenges – honoring the uniqueness of each culture while coming together to be one body. Another pastor spoke of our need to put aside the culture that formed and informed us in order to live into God’s vision for his kingdom.
I’d like to share several thoughts I had during the luncheon and worship service.
First, I’ve drawn boundaries around my life and anything that crosses those boundaries causes me discomfort. As I say this, I’m not making a judgement about the boundaries I’ve drawn or who or what might cross those boundaries. I’m just stating a fact. I have created boundaries. So, what did Jesus do about boundaries? He spent three years crossing boundaries. He defied the social norms of his time by talking to the outcasts, by touching the unclean, by eating with the crooks, and by praising the faith of gentiles as they responded to his presence. What can I learn from his example?
Second, my discomfort with other people, cultures, etc. is not their fault. I am the one who’s created the boundaries in my life. I need to acknowledge the boundaries I’ve created and ask Christ which boundaries are appropriate and which need to be changed rather than blaming others for my discomfort. When Christ tells me to stand firm, I stand firm. When Christ calls me to put aside my discomfort in order to reach others for his sake, I know it’s time for me to change.
Third, when I push people away because they are from a different culture, I am pushing Jesus away. If he lives in their hearts or desires to live in their hearts and I push them away, then I’m pushing him away also.
And, finally, change starts with me. When my boundaries are pushed or crossed in such a way that I become aware of my prejudices against others, I can react in several ways. I can become defensive. I can seek to reinforce my boundaries so that people or situations who make me uncomfortable are less likely to be able to cross my boundaries. Or I can look to see what I might learn about myself and what might need to change in me to help me be more welcoming to those who are different.
I pray that next year’s multicultural luncheon will be bigger and more diverse so I may get another glimpse of heaven. But more than that, I pray that the day soon comes when diversity is so common in our church that we won’t have to have a luncheon to celebrate.
Dr. Nita Crump serves as Director of Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.