Faith, Racial Diversity, and the End of the Age

The memory verse for March 2012 is Romans 3:23-25.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith

When Jesus Christ came, he radically altered the way one defines the people of God.  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, American or Arab, rich or poor.  Inclusion among the people of God is based on faith alone.  The more we see and experience God’s righteousness and graciousness, freely poured out on those who fear him, the more we will be swept up in God’s vision for racial diversity.  And, the more we treasure racial diversity, the sooner we will abandon our ethnocentric tendencies in order to join God in his work of calling people from every tongue, tribe and nation to worship Him.  And then, the end will come.

The Spirit can use at least three ideas from our memory verse this month to move you towards a deeper and wider cultural appreciation.  First, let the word “all” in verses 23 and 24 cause you to pause.  Whenever you see the word “all,” it is probably a good idea to stop and ask, “to whom does this refer?”  In verse 23, “all” does not immediately refer to each and every person.

We know this because the “all” in verse 23 is the same as the “all” in verse 24.  In verse 24, Paul, the author, is definitely not saying that each and every person is justified.  Only those who believe and have faith in Jesus Christ are justified (Rom 3:22).  The “all” in verses 23 and 24 refers to all types, or groups, of people.

This brings us to the second idea.  The first word in our memory verse is small but mighty, “FOR!” Whenever we see a “for” or a “therefore” we should ask, “what is it there for?”  In verse 22, Paul says that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, FOR all have sinned.  Both types of people have sinned.

And, both types of people are justified freely by God’s grace.  One thing that we all have in common – Jews and Gentiles, Arabs and Americans, rich and poor – is our sin.  Bummer…

The third idea is what unites all types of people.  All of us are justified freely by grace alone through faith alone (Rom 3:25).  Faith in Christ is the great unifier.  It defines the people of God.  God intended for his Kingdom to be characterized by racial diversity.

In fact, our mission is to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19) so that all the peoples of the world would praise him.  The song that we sing says that Jesus is worthy because he was slain, “and with [his] blood [he] purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).

Are you captivated by that vision?  Jesus already bought with his precious blood people from all over the world.  To the extent that we want Jesus to receive the reward of his suffering, we will work to call them out of darkness and into his marvelous light.  But doing so means that we must shed our ethnocentric tendencies and our sinful desire for comfort and convenience.

Our duty and our delight is to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to the whole world, and then the end will come (Mt. 24:14).

May God develop in us a faith in Christ that desires racial diversity and longs for the end to come, when we will see Jesus face to face.