Yahweh’s promise to Abraham is that through him all families of the earth will be blessed (Gen. 12:3). Abraham’s offspring, Israel, was appointed a light to the nations but failed (Isaiah 49:6). However, through another of Abraham’s offspring, Jesus of Nazareth, the promise was fulfilled to the extent that following his resurrection Jesus commands “God therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).
“Nations” is from the Greek term ethne, from which we get “ethnicity.” Jesus has in mind all people groups of the earth, all ethnicities.
We begin to see this vision of Jesus, which is the original promise to Abraham, begin to be unfolded in the narrative of Acts:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV, emphasis added)
In his own ministry, the Apostle Paul, a Jew, was chosen and commissioned by the risen Lord to take the gospel to the Gentiles, non-Jews (Acts 9:15; Rom. 11:13; Col. 1:27). Yes, Paul’s ministry was part of the fulfillment of this vision, this promise. Paul knew it.
Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:15-16 NIV, emphasis added)
Paul, a Jew, begins to see what God was doing in calling the Gentiles to himself through his own ministry. To the Ephesians Paul would write about the ingathering of the once alienated Gentiles to form what he calls the “new humanity,” which was the Lord’s purpose (Eph. 2:11-22).
And as we continue to battle racism here in America, especially in the American church, I want to propose the term “see” as a useful acronym, to help us along toward a more harmonious American.
Subvert. Yes, we have come a long way from the inhumane days of slavery in America. But I’m afraid that we still have a long way to go. In many ways, an argument can be made that we are making backward steps, reverting to discrimination on the basis of race, but in more subtle ways. Schools. Workplaces. Positions of leadership. Government.
What we need is a subversion of this aspect of the American culture. The church needs to lead the way. We cannot rely on the government to do what the Lord has commissioned us to do.
Rather than being so passionate in their fight against abortion and homosexuality–throwing monies and resources behind campaigns toward that end–I wonder why Christians in America are not as passionate in their fight against the evil of racism.
We need to subvert the American culture through a living and preaching of the gospel, especially a living of the gospel, which is culturally subversive.
Educate. I wish our Bible colleges and seminaries would include in their curriculum a class or two on racial reconciliation and so on. Our people need to be educated and re-educated. People need to know that all peoples, all races–yes, every human being isequally created in the image of God. No race is superior to another.
The gospel of Jesus makes this clear. In fact, to discriminate against others because of race and ethnicity is “not in step with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14 ESV). It is to make the gospel a lie.
Embrace. The best way to subvert a culture that promotes racism and discrimination is for believers of all races to embrace and celebrate our diversities. The Lord loves diversity. In fact, he is the father of it.
“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” (Rev. 5:9 ESV, emphasis added)
This vision of John in Revelation is indeed heavenly. I get that. But it was the Lord who taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
And against this vision, we still find that worship on Sunday, when many Americans are gathered in our churches through, remains largely segregated.
As I conclude this post, and as my heart continues to ache because of the evil of racism that I continue to see in America and in our churches, I propose the word see as a useful tool to help us see as the Lord sees–subvert, educate, embrace.
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. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:28-29 ESV)