Every four years, I stop and watch a TON of television. With that first tympani strike and the notes “Bum, BUM, ba dum bum bum bum…” my heart begins to skip a beat. I love everything about the Olympics: the competition, the stories, the unlikely underdogs, the ways in which nations from around the world come together to celebrate peace and achievement. I love seeing people from around the world with commonalities: wanting to honor their country through their competition, and to achieve the best results they can
One of the most incredible things to me is watching the different countries share their culture. This year, Brazil took us on a tour of their history and heritage, from their indigenous peoples to the arrival of the Portuguese to their ongoing interaction with the world. It was incredible to see the rainforest remade right there in a soccer stadium in Rio. And we are treated to sights, sounds, and scenes from around the country as coverage of the Olympic Games brings Brazil into our homes.
But I am also amazed to see all of the various countries represented, from huge populations like China to tiny island nations like Cooke Islands. we are reminded that of our commonalities, but also our differences: differences in language, culture, customs, world view, understandings, interactions, and importances. We are ONE PEOPLE, ONE WORLD, but a MULTIPLICITY of languages, cultures, and customs.
And, as I sat watching the Olympics the other night, I was reminded of a recent class on Wednesday evenings here at church. I looked around the room and noticed all of the differences among us: languages; country of origin; life experiences; gender; marital status; socio-economic level; education; interests; etc.
And those differences create some incredible challenges. But they also bring incredible beauty. Because the kingdom of God is about diversity.
Listen to how Paul described the church in Galatians:
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Notice what that verse DOESN’T say. it doesn’t say we are all meant to be the same. We aren’t meant to give up our culture or background. We can’t stop being Jewish or Gentile, or American or Nigerian or Kenyan or Belgian or the host of other nations that were sitting around our room. We aren’t all meant to be the same. We have different strengths and gifts and talents. We have different backgrounds and languages and experiences and understandings. And all of those things are vital in the global worship of God. We have been clothed with Christ. That similarity binds us together in unity.
But unity isn’t uniformity. God celebrates diversity. If he didn’t, there wouldn’t be different languages, races, backgrounds, and experiences. But God is honored with diverse people come together and unite in Christ to glorify God together.
This unity is meant to be celebrated as we come together to worship God together, regardless of language or skin color or gender or background. We can all be one in Christ Jesus.
More on that tomorrow.