Heaven is not colour blind: My Skin, Racial Reconciliation
We are going to start a three-week series that biblically addresses the topics of both racial tension and gospel-centered reconciliation. It’s no stretch to say that the issue of race has become a hot topic recently. We are going to look at the different ways the local church can better reflect the diversity of God’s Kingdom, listen to those who are different than us, and pursue justice in all areas of life.
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines Racism
1. the belief that each race or ethnic group possesses specific characteristics, abilities, or qualities that distinguish it as inferior or superior to another such group.
2 discrimination against or antagonism towards other races or ethnic groups based on such a belief.
According to 2011, Canada had a foreign-born population of about 6,775,800 people. They represented 20.6% of the total population, the highest proportion among the G8 countries. Between 2006 and 2011, around 1,162,900 foreign-born people immigrated to Canada. These recent immigrants made up 17.2% of the foreign-born population and 3.5% of the total population in Canada. Asia (including the Middle East) was Canada's largest source of immigrants during the past five years, although the share of immigration from Africa, Caribbean, Central and South America increased slightly.
The vast majority of the foreign-born population lived in four provinces: Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta, and most lived in the nation's largest urban centers.
More than 200 ethnic origins were reported in the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS). In 2011, 13 different ethnic origins had surpassed the 1-million mark.
Nearly 6,264,800 people identified themselves as a member of a visible minority group. They represented 19.1% of the total population. Of these visible minorities, 30.9% were born in Canada and 65.1% were born outside the country and came to live in Canada as immigrants. A small proportion (4.0%) of the visible minority population was non-permanent residents. Combined, the three largest visible minority groups-South Asians, Chinese and Blacks-accounted for 61.3% of the visible minority population in 2011. They were followed by Filipinos, Latin Americans, Arabs, Southeast Asians, West Asians, Koreans and Japanese. As was the case with the immigrant population, the vast majority lived in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta. Seven out of 10 lived in the three largest census metropolitan areas: Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver.
What does these statistics mean to us as a nation, as a church?
Globe and Mail publish an article March 9, 2010
A massive demographic change is taking place that could alter Canada's economic, political and education systems and exacerbate the divide between rural and urban communities. By 2031, one in three Canadians will belong to a visible minority. One in four will be foreign-born, the highest proportion since the end of the last wave of mass immigration that began around 1910.
1. So would you say there’s a racism problem in our country?
2. And what are the concrete examples of that? What does that look like?
The answer will depend whether how well you understand racism if you are aware of what’s happening in your surrounding, with whom you spend most of your time with, your interest on the subject.
Google, “racist incidents in Vancouver” will reveal an increasing number of the racist incident do occur and is happening around us.
Racist confrontation on Vancouver train caught on camera | CTV News
Straight.com published the following list of Racist incidents last Aug. 1,2017-09-06Here's a summary of six local incidents that were reported in the news.
· Ku Klux Klan flyers were found in Abbotsford in October and January (as well as in Chilliwack in July 2016).
· Anti-Chinese flyers were distributed in Steveston in November. Neo-Nazi posters appeared in New Westminster in January.
· This year, a smoke bomb was also set off at an antiracism rally in downtown Vancouver in March. Then in April, Vancouver–False Creek NDP candidate Morgane Oger was the target of transphobic flyers that were denounced by B.C. political parties.
· Over the past few months, a number of incidents across the Lower Mainland have involved graffiti expressing a variety of hateful attitudes, including racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and Islamophobic phrases and slurs.
What is our response to this issue as a church?
This morning, I want us to go through how the bible addresses the racial issue. We are going to look to at what I call bookend of the bible, Genesis and Revelation to understand the origin and purpose of race.
Our Text: Revelation 7:9-17 but the key verse is verse 9
I titled my message today: Heaven is not color blind
Revelation 7:9 (ESV) 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,
Big Idea of the Message: Salvation is for all people, regardless of nationality, race, or economic status. The local church should reflect this truth.
Point #1: No one loses their “race” in heaven.
Text: Revelation 7:9 (ESV) After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, ...
This passage is Revelation provides a wonderful picture of heaven. Who will be united with God for eternity? “[A] great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages…”
John described the scene in heaven as a great multitude, which no once can count. He went into details the composition of the great multitudes:
a. every nation - ethnos, ethnic - a large group of people based on various cultural, physical or geographical ties
b. all tribes - a social division of people; often based on lineage
c. peoples - a large group of people based on various cultural, physical or geographical ties
d. tongues - a distinct people group; understood by the language associated with them.
Heaven is not colorblind. John described a great gathering in heaven in the future where there will be people from every nation, tongue, and race. In heaven, no one loses their ethnicity, their race, their tribes & language. Heaven celebrates diversity. Heaven celebrates the uniqueness of God’s creation.
The scene that John described in heaven is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in:
Genesis 12:2 (ESV) And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing.
Genesis 15:5 (ESV) And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
“How many times have you heard someone say that they “don’t see color,” “are colorblind,” or “don’t have a racist bone in their body?” Maybe you’ve even said this yourself. After all, the dominant language around racial issues today is typically one of colorblindness, as it’s often meant to convey a distaste for racial practices and attitudes common in an earlier era.
“Many sociologists, though, are extremely critical of colorblindness as an ideology. They argue that as the mechanisms that reproduce racial inequality have become more covert and obscure than they were during the era of open, legal segregation, the language of explicit racism has given way to a discourse of colorblindness. But they fear that the refusal to take public note of race actually allows people to ignore manifestations of persistent discrimination.” Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/color-blindness-is-counterproductive/405037/
Nowhere in the Bible that God you will find that God made a mistake in creating different races. The story Tower of Babel - from one language to many , we read what man uses God good design for another purpose.
Genesis 11:1 (ESV) Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.
Genesis 11:4 (ESV) Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
What is the real reason behind the building of the tower? Is there anything wrong with building a tall tower? The sees their heart, he knows their real motivation.
Genesis 11:7 (ESV) Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
Genesis 11:8 (ESV) So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
God created every nation:
Acts 17:26 (ESV) And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
Deuteronomy 32:8 (ESV) When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.
Job 12:23 (ESV) He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away.
God appointed you to be born in a particular race, family, tongue. You are not an accident. You need to celebrate your uniqueness as a person, as part of a race. We need to welcome different race, culture, the nation in our midst. We need to acknowledge that no race is superior to other. God created all of us in his image. Let’s thank God for bringing other race in our church. Let us celebrate our differences, our diversity. Let’s use them to reflect God’s good design. Let’s make our church a place where other race will feel loved and valued. Rather than “eliminating” our idea of color and race, how can we celebrate diversity? Notice how this passage doesn’t say that one loses their “race” in heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is one of beautiful diversity!
I look forward to the day that we can celebrate the culture of other here in our church.
No one loses their race in heaven. No one should also lose their race when they come to our gathering.
Point #2: People are saved by grace through faith, not by “race”.
As John continued to describe the great gathering in heaven, he also gave the reason why they were there.
Revelation 7:9 (ESV) ... standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
Revelation 7:14 (ESV) I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
They were there for only one reason, they were made righteous by the blood of the Lamb. Their clothes were washed by the blood of the Lamb.
John 1:12–13 (ESV) But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Jesus gives the invitation to all (that means to all without any exception). Becoming a child of God is not by virtue of blood, family line, race, tribes and tongue but only through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
It is by the grace of God so no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:14 (ESV) For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
The wall of hostility is the wall that exists between Jews and Gentiles. The Gospel, salvation is not only for the Jews but for the Gentiles too (non-Jews)
Romans 1:16 (ESV) 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Galatians 3:28 (ESV) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Believers are all one in Christ Jesus. None is spiritually superior over another, that is, a believing Jew is not more privileged before God than a believing Gentile (Greek, in contrast to Jew, suggests all Gentiles; cf. Col. 3:11); a believing slave does not rank higher than a believing free person; a believing man is not superior to a believing woman. The Bible Knowledge Commentary 3:28
Colossians 3:11 (ESV) Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Entrance to heaven is only through Jesus Christ, the Lamb that was slain. At the end of this age, Jesus will welcome people from every tribe, nations, race, & tongues who were washed by his blood. Salvation is for everyone. Christianity is not a white man religion, is not a western religion, it’s not exclusive to a particular race.
When Jesus gave the great commission, it is not a great omission, or exclusive commission. His great commission is to go into all the world, people group, race.
Acts 1:8 (ESV) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
“If we as a body of Christ are supposed to reflect the Kingdom of Heaven, and we’re not seeking diversity, have we missed the message of Revelation 7?” Salvation is for all people, regardless of nationality, race, or economic status. Our church should reflect this truth.
Our mission is to reach all nations. God brought many nations to Canada. 99.9% of us here are immigrants. God brought us here not to enrich us financially but to participate in God’s work of bringing people back to himself. Some of you became a born again believer in Canada. Some of you were used by God to share the good news of salvation to a friend/relatives/co-worker and some of them are now part of the body of Christ.
As a church, we must make every effort not only reach those whom we are comfortable but also those who have difficulty communicating or different from us. When God brings someone here from the different background, take time to know them and make them feel welcome. Don’t be afraid to share the good news of salvation (gospel) them.
Point #3: Worship of God is the central focus in heaven not the race, tribes or tongues.
Revelation 7:9 (ESV) 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, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7:15–17 (ESV) “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
You will notice as you read Rev 7:9-17 that the “throne” (the throne of God) was mentioned seven times giving emphasis that the focus in heaven and heavenly worship is God sitting on his throne and to the Lamb. There is no issue which race is superior to the rest but all them are before the throne of God worshiping and serving God. The beauty of this gathering with different tongues present is that they all cry out with a loud voice, “Salvation belong to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb”. John heard in unison this declaration coming from different tongues. God brings all their voices together in unity.
Philippians 2:9–11 (ESV) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The picture of heavenly worship affirms us that real worship brings people together, unite people from different race, different tongues and celebrate their diversity. If you look into the worship gathering of people from other nation, other race you will discover that they don’t conduct their worship the way we do here in North America. How do the Africans, Hispanics, European, Asians worship differ in style?
Have you ever caught yourself using the term “worship” in reference only to congregational singing or the music at a Christian conference? You’re not alone. Over time in Christian circles, music and worship have become synonymous. Comments such as “Man, worship was great this morning.” “I just don’t like their style of worship.” “Let’s stand and worship together.” “The worship at Passion was just so powerful.”
The woman Jesus encountered in a Samarian well, John 4:23 (ESV) But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. The Samaritan woman raised the issue of raise when it comes to worship. John 4:20 (ESV) Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
“Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours in American life, with more than 8 in 10 congregations made up of one predominant racial group. And most worshipers think their church is fine the way it is.
Two-thirds of American churchgoers (67percent) say their church has done enough to become racially diverse. And less than half think their church should become more diverse.”
Worship should unite us instead of dividing us. When our focus in on God the rest take a back seat. In heaven the redeemed from all nations, race, tongues & tribes will gather together and will raise their voices in unison crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb”. Christian worship is the only place where racial reconciliation will happen. Where all the redeemed race, tribes, nations and tongues can come together in a unit. We may not fully attain here on earth the kind of worship in heaven but with the help of God, we can work toward the day that our worship will reflect all race, tribes, nations, and tongues is the part of our church.