Christ’s vision of the Church is a community of people from all nations and ethnic groups. We see a prophetic vision of this at the end of days:
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.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)
If they reflect the heart of Christ, we believe that Christians in their life together will also reflect the ethnic diversity of their surrounding community. Our fellowship should be the one place to which different people groups are drawn because our life together is the one place where all are celebrated as God’s creation and valued for their unique contribution to his image in the world. Of all people we should be the ones who delight in the many nuances of God’s creativity in the races of our kind! As we embrace people from every nation, tribe, and tongue, and every hue in the spectrum of human colors, we exalt Christ as Lord of all, and joyfully proclaim his commitment and power to bring reconciliation with God and with others in our fractured world.
Our differences are not just epidermal. We were born in our skin. We are raised in a culture. We come to Christ with both. All cultures (including our own) must be redeemed and reformed by grace and truth, but all have something to contribute to our understanding of God’s creative love: music, art, architecture, dress, cuisine, holidays, and customs. Even in their fallenness, all share in the mosaic of God’s design for our world and our shared life in it. Instead of viewing cultural differences with a demeaning or suspicious eye, we ought to welcome them, let them inspire wonder, stimulate curiosity, and stir us to celebrate God’s handiwork in all people. We should marvel and then revel in all that is good. Delighting in our differences enriches our lives and bears witness to the world to come, to a time when all people in glorious harmony will celebrate the worthiness of Christ in a new song.
As challenging as it may be in our day, the unity of Christians must also celebrate diversity in political thought and practice. Richard John Neuhaus wrote: “Christians must proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel to all people, embracing them in a sustaining community of faith and discipline under the Lordship of Christ. . . . The Church is called to be a community of diversity, including people of every race, nation, class, and political viewpoint.”
As we see it, this does not imply relativism of any kind. It does, however, entail humility before the truth: a recognition, as the apostle Paul put it, that “now we know in part.” It exalts God, who alone knows all things. It exalts Christ, who is far greater than our disagreements. And it exalts the Kingdom of God, to which all are invited if they bow their knee to the King, whose rule alone is absolute.