I remember the first time I walked into a multi-cultural church. Growing up in apartheid South Africa meant it was shockingly strange to see people from different cultures and ethnicities embracing one another and enjoying a Christian gathering. I could not believe this was possible. To me, explicit racism was rare. But I was well aware of the frequent sinister attitudes, values and jokes of implicit racism. Becoming a follower of Jesus and being part of that church, helped to make me realise how ingrained my way of thinking was. I’m incredibly grateful to my friends who walked with me and helped undo much of the prejudice that lurked within my thinking and acting.

The problem was that I used to think of racism as an event. Someone said or did something to someone else that indicated a prior belief or value that one person was superior to another. What I hadn’t realised was that the patterns of thoughts and behaviours that form trends in the way we engage with others of a different race. As Professor of American Studies J. Kēhaulani Kauanui insightfully notes, “Racism is a structure, not an event”.


racism-pic-3.jpg
People of different race embracing one another.

This leads to the other problem. I used to think that racism was a belief. So, if you do not believe that one race or ethnic group is better than another is, then you are not racist. This is too simplistic. I grew up in a culture that implicitly shaped me to think that white people were better than others. It would be naïve to think that because I do not explicitly believe one race is better than another, that I am not still shaped and affected by my context. Over the years, I have been quite intentional in seeking to eradicate any vestige of racism in my thinking, relationships, attitudes and assumptions, but I cannot be sure it is all gone, and so I remain vigilant and open to loving correction.
 
The reason for dealing with racism is that I am anticipating God’s restoration of all things. In the future, the renewed heavens and earth will be a place where there is “a great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev 7:9). This is the future that God is busy creating right now. And He is doing it in and through His people. God loves the variety of cultures, languages and ethnicities. And in the future, there will be such a variety of past, present and future cultures, languages and ethnicities that we will enjoy together.


The task of the church now is to celebrate the diversity we have, and not let it be divisive. We must learn to appreciate and enjoy our differences, not let them divide us. Today, we must try to embody the future that we know is coming—where every tongue, tribe and nation give thanks to the God who brings all people together and destroys that which brings division and separation. Then united in diversity, we will sing, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:10).

 

                                                   

 

 

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