After the events in Charlottesville this weekend, my mind is bubbling over with all kinds of thoughts. First and foremost, however, I’m a teacher of God’s Word, and so I return to the simple, clear truth contained therein.
Scripture is clear: the call of Christ is for all nations and people. Sure, we can cherry pick scriptures that sound contrary, but when we consider the trajectory of the whole Bible, we cannot ignore that there is no place for racial superiority of any kind in Christ’s kingdom. Here are just a few verses that demolish the idea of white supremacy and any other claim of ethnic hierarchy.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”
Right at the very beginning of the scriptures we find this affirmation that every human being has the dignity of bearing the divine image of God. Every means EVERY, regardless of ethnic origin, financial circumstances, physical ability, gender, age, or any other way of divvying up humanity. To be human is to carry the weight of glory.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
When God calls a particular person to follow him, God creates a special relationship of love and commitment called a covenant. Here in the covenant with Abraham, God stipulates that an essential part of His covenant is that all peoples will be blessed. Every nation, every ethnic group, every tribe – the blessing of God is promised to all of humanity.
“A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”
Nothing is more singularly Jewish than the Passover. One would think this observance was a clear sign of racial separation. But scripture makes it clear that the Passover and the covenant are not a matter of ethnic origin, but of faithful commitment in the heart. The passover is open to any foreigner who expresses a commitment to God, regardless of their race or nation.
“All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.”
The Psalms have many references to all the nations coming to worship the Lord together. Emblematic of this is this quote from Psalm 22. You will remember that Jesus quotes other parts of Psalm 22 from the cross – this psalm as a whole looks ahead to Christ’s great work being completed. An essential part of that completion of Christ’s work is that all the nations will worship him.
“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.””
The middle chapters of Isaiah detail God’s judgment against all the nations and against His people in Israel. Yet nestled in the midst of all that judgment is this little nugget talking about how God sets all things right after His judgment: all the nations will worship side by side. The ancient enemies of Israel will be counted as God’s people as well. God will reconcile all the nations and ethnicities into one great fellowship of praise.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
Jesus uses the shepherd image to convey his role as Israel’s messiah, but then he goes on to say that there are “other sheep” who are his. These other sheep are people of the nations who hear his call and follow Him. Inclusion in the kingdom of Christ is not a matter of ethnic origin, but of responsiveness to His call.
“Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.’”
Peter was sent by the Holy Spirit to visit Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, and in so doing, God made it very clear that the gospel was to go to all nations, not just one particular ethnic group. Peter acknowledges this truth and baptizes Cornelius into the family of God.
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Paul’s letter to the Galatians makes a strong case that inclusion in the kingdom of Christ is a matter of God’s grace working in our hearts, not a matter of ritual checklists or heritage. Notice how he explicitly ties back to being children of Abraham? Scroll back up and look at Genesis 12:2-3 again. All nations are blessed in Christ and are brought into the family of God through Christ.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.’”
Revelation gives us a picture of a mighty crowd from all nations adorned for worship and praising God with one voice. It doesn’t get any more clear than this: the trajectory of God’s kingdom is that the peoples of the earth are united in praise and adoration of the living God.
There you have it. The consistent message of scripture, both Old and New Testament, is that God’s trajectory is to unite all nations, not to divide. God’s intent is that all of humanity would enjoy fellowship and togetherness.
This truth needs to be communicated loudly and clearly. We need to find ways to make it clear to the world that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
The question is, how then should we live in light of these scriptural truths? More to come in my next post.
About the cover image: This stained class is outside the elevators on floor at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. Alas I can’t remember the exact floor, but I took this photo back in 2013 while doing a hospital visit.