Have you noticed how children suffer from short-term memory loss when it comes to their toys? My son dumped out a toy box the other day into a pint-size mountain in the middle of the kids’ bedroom. His eyes locked in on something in the pile, then he shrieked, “This is mine?! I love this!” He thrust his little hand into the pile and brought out a plastic triceratops and rejoiced over it like he hadn’t seen that triceratops since the Jurassic era.
We are just like kids when it comes to the spiritual blessings that belong to us in Christ. There is so much we have yet to enjoy about God, but we lack the capacity for whatever reason. We’re half-hearted, forgetful, desperately sinful, and oh-so-finite. Yet because God is eternal, we will never grow bored as we gaze into the unfathomable depth of his character for all eternity. Boredom will be a thing of the past, even “when we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun.”
Even now, on this side of heaven, we can dive into the treasures of the gospel in all its geometrical glory. Together “with all the saints” we can enjoy “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ (Eph. 3:16-19). Richard Sibbes said, “We have a full treasury to go to. All treasure is hid in Christ for us.”
When you do find that treasure in a field you have to ask: Who buried the treasure for you to find, and what must he be like? And just like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, if you give a Christian the treasure chest of gospel riches, he is going to ask God for more people for him to share it with. By God’s Spirit we are led to count ourselves among the members of Christ’s body, the church.
Christ’s Pan-Racial Bride
The diversity of the one bride of Christ is one of those treasures we get to enjoy but often forget how unique and special it is. We’re like preschoolers with short-term memory loss about the joy that could be ours. We have to be reminded to dig into that treasure chest of gospel riches to discover and rediscover God’s heart for unity amid diversity. And when we are reminded of the gift we have in our unity amid diversity through the gospel we can’t help but rejoice. “This is ours?! I love it!” The classic text we love to remember to illustrate this gift is Revelation 5:9-10:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
This scene of the glorious pan-racial worship of the Lamb is set in the future. And the fully multiracial diversity of the bride of Christ is already/not yet. It’s already, because God chose every single one of us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). But the church’s full-grown pan-racial quality is not yet as long as “unreached people groups” are a reality.
Not Diversity for Diversity’s Sake
All over the world you can find people getting excited about diversity. But the gospel gives us a distinctly Christian affection for diversity. That’s one of the reasons why I love Trillia Newbell’s book United so much. It’s like Trillia was rummaging through that treasure chest of the riches of God’s kingdom and she got to this one jewel called Unity In Diversity. In her book she’s holding it up for all of us saying, “Wow! Hey guys! Did you see this one?”
Trillia doesn’t have a passion for “diversity;” she has a passion for the gospel. She writes:
I have a passion for the gospel. It is in the gospel that we see people as made in the image of God, uniquely designed by God, and brothers and sisters in Christ. We know that every person who ever lived is made in God’s image, but for the Christian, there is a new family. My desire is that we would see each other as who we really are—brothers and sisters bought with a price.
I think that as we grab hold of what the gospel does to the discussion of race, it is then that we’ll be motivated and stirred to see church communities reflect the family of God. The family of God is diverse. My prayer is that our local bodies and our personal relationships would be too.
If you and I are going to be passionate about something, let’s be passionate about the gospel which transforms not only this conversation but each other.
Just think of the brilliant glory of God that is refracted through the jewel of Unity In Diversity as we read about it in verses like Romans 12:5, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” There is no “they” in the body of Christ because they are “we.” Our unity in diversity is a reality to embrace—a free gift that belongs to us. But because we are still sinners, unity in diversity is also something that we must work hard to always be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
Foreign Is Relative
Being a minority in a global city has been teaching me a lot about my own ethnocentricity. One time I was standing in a train station talking with a new acquaintance when she answered her phone and said to the person on the other line, “I am talking with a foreigner.” And here I was thinking that I was talking to a foreigner.
There is so much we can offer one another this side of heaven while we are waiting for the marriage supper of the Lamb. I’ll never forget one “aha moment” I had when talking with someone from a nearby country about the famous prodigal son passage in Luke 15. I was recounting the story to her when she stopped me mid-verse. “Wait, wait. What? Where is the older brother?” She wanted to know what he was doing before I even finished verse 13. “It doesn’t say what he is doing,” I answered. “Well, what he should be doing is following his brother to bring him back to their father. If he loves his father he will go get his younger brother.” Wow.
Needless to say, when I got to the part where the older brother whines to his father, “Look, these many years I have served you,” she guffawed. She thought he was boldfaced lying because if he truthfully served his father then he would never have stood by to watch his little brother shame himself and their family while causing their father so much grief. He would have gone after him and done everything in his power to restore him to the family. I began to see through the lens of her perspective that Jesus was our Older Brother par excellence. He loves the Father, and he purposed to come rescue us from before time began, running after us so that he might live and sacrificially die for us in our pigsty “while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8).
The gospel is transforming and will transform men and women and children from every tribe and language and people and nation. Our brothers and sisters are still out there—in suburban sprawls in Dayton, high rises in Doha, villas in Wollongong, and huts in Kokoda—waiting for someone with gospel-swift feet to come preach good news (Rom. 10:15, Eph. 6:15). Our brothers and sisters will waken from their slumbering spiritual death and be given new life in Christ. We have rock-steady assurance from Jesus because he promised us that his sheep assuredly respond to his call (John 10:16).
The message of pan-racial reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ is the message that sends us into those places with confident joy. And in this jewel of Unity In Diversity we can see glimpses of the brilliance of Jesus.
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Trillia Newbell will speak on “United: The Beauty of Diversity in Friendship” at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, June 27 to 29 in Orlando. Gloria Furman will talk about “Missional Motherhood,” and they will appear together on a panel about “Teaching Our Children About Jesus.” Browse the list of dozens more speakers and talks then register yourself and friends.