“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
I love this simple yet profound Christmas message. That which we could only think about and imagine has become flesh, so that we can SEE glory, grace, and truth for ourselves. The incarnation is the most beautiful and most necessary of Christian truths. A God that is far away and cannot be known is worse than no God at all. It is like a beautifully wrapped present that we are not allowed to open, play with, or enjoy.
Jesus faithfully showed us the Father. Now it’s our turn. The church is called the body of Christ because we represent God’s anointed one in the world. We are that which can be heard, which can be seen with the eye, which can be looked at and hands can touch. Represent, not like a salesman or even an ambassador, but represent like Jesus represented the Father, “an exact image of his being.” When the world looks at the church, they are supposed to be able to see Messiah and thus the Father. Not a religious idea, but the very character of God.
This is one of the simplest reasons why the church must be diverse. A mono-ethnic community cannot express the character of God like a multi-ethnic one. It is not just the fact that our different cultures express the diversity and fullness of who God is. It is all those wonderful aspects of God’s character that find greatest expression in a diverse congregation: forgiveness, reconciliation, sacrificial love, and of course grace, to name a few. This is what the world is hungry for. This is what Jesus gave it- an authentic and clear image of who God is. This is what the church must BE today.-God in the flesh for the entire world to see.
Are you engaged in brining God’s kingdom diversity to today’s church? Then you know this is not an easy task. It can only be described as a battle, perhaps even a war. We war against our own fleshly desires, our seemingly innocent affinities, and in a very real way, against the forces of darkness.
A church that represents heaven on earth is an accurate representation of God’s kingdom in a multitude of ways: It testifies to the sacred nature of humanity and our divine creation. It affirms the supernatural power of the gospel to reconcile and unite ethnic groups who, in the natural, do not have a reason to come together. It confirms the presence of God’s Spirit acting in the world today as that church engages in the works of the kingdom. In other words, it is a church that is representing Jesus and his kingdom to the world, fully and accurately. This is exactly the kind of church the forces of darkness hate!
For hundreds of years the enemy has successfully kept the church segregated, not only in the US, but in the world at large. This is not a victory that he is willing to give up. The fight to see God’s church done God’s way, is a violent fight, for many, it has been a fight to the death.
While we must engage in this battle with passionate commitment, it is vital that we fight with the weapons of God’s kingdom, and not the weapons of this world. A look at the sermon of the mount is a great place to identify much of the ethic of the kingdom: meekness, humility, mourning, mercy, a hunger for righteousness and a willingness to be persecuted. These are just a few elements of the weapons of God’s kingdom. As Martin Luther King said, “you do not fight hatred with hatred, but with love.” We must discover again, how to do battle Jesus way: the way of self-denial, the way of the cross.
To be very honest with you, I hate the work of diversity. It is fraught with problems. It involves confronting people with truths, most do not want to hear. At times, the task feels somewhat impossible. The world outside the church is full of strife, division, and hatred and at times, inside the church too. Perhaps the worst of it, for me, is the constant revealing of my own wicked heart by the Holy Spirit and his call for me to live out what I am calling others to. My, it is hard. It is a battle. It is a war. There is little glory to be found and only the pleasure of doing God’s will and seeing his kingdom come in the lives of others. In other words, it is kingdom work.
And yet, we move forward. Why? Because we are called to. And we remind ourselves that the easiest way to lose a battle, is not to engage, to abdicate, to sit on the sidelines and say, “it’s just too hard. I don’t think it can be done.”
So fight, my friend. Fight discouragement; fight fear; fight self-preservation; fight the flesh; fight the enemy. In battles there may be many plans and stratagems, but all are useless unless we first, engage!