Diversity, Missions and Healing of the Ethnos

Part 1: The Primary Contribution of the Christian Church

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In the information age we are constantly bombarded by content. Information and especially the information we accept as truth shapes and leads our internal narrative. Generally (even historically), the news and now social media leads the internal narrative of our minds and worldview.  Arguably much of its content is not discernibly true or factual but by its sheer volume, consistency, and dopamine-driven nature it seeks access and acceptance within. In other words, due to the onslaught of information, it operates like an eroding drip of water on rock carving out a place within. This makes it difficult to weigh what is true versus what is deceptive, chipping away at our senses and ability to ascertain a clear vision of justice and righteousness. This difficulty impacts the human attempt at just and righteous responses.

As believers in the gospel of Christ, working out what it means to be made anew, living as the firstfruits of God’s inaugurated kingdom and of the eternal sabbath yet to come, we must be careful that we do not lose the spirit of our message (love and humility) and mission as we utilize secular tactics of self-ordaining our own voices (namely through sound bits on social media) which I’ve observed has resulted in exhausting our hearers with hasty and half-baked presentations of our gospel and scriptural hope.

In this and the next 4 articles, I will attempt to share my contemplations as I’ve prayerfully meditated on the Scriptures (and other biblically-informed scholarly works) concerning the following topics: the state of Christian missions, the impact of the historical American ethnic disparities, specifically statistics addressing a lack of the African Diaspora (from America) in global Christian missions and its current tokenization in many predominately Eurocentric Christian congregations and leadership structures.

More recently as I observe and pray for my spiritual brothers and sisters investing in what is being called “a generational shift” seeking to inspire, equip, train, and send the ethnically black Christian into the global missions movement; I have seen this noble pursuit attract criticism from other brothers and sisters in Christ who present a disagreement with the execution which in my opinion is a waste of time and nonessential. Particularly, the bad fruit of criticism is causing grief, division, and confusion among my spiritual family and has inspired me to make my notes available beyond a personal context. I write with a conviction that the Scriptures offer sufficient counsel and necessary answers to the prayerful seeker which are intended to teach us how to navigate these hard topics filled with grace and truth—without which the Scriptures can be (and often are) misused and weaponized.

My hope is to aid in a healthy and biblical reflection (with those who affirm the inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of the Scriptures) that begins from the center (Jesus, His message, and mission), and then proceeds to reach out to the edges where many of the conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion, Christian missions, and what the kingdom of God is and how namely, the people of God should be in the 21st century, its culture and how we are to contribute in our generation’s dialogue. My aim in sharing my own reflections is that it may help to spark compassionate and humble personal conversations as we seek to carefully handle what  Scripture offers regarding how this coming kingdom impacts us today and the anchoring hope of how it will be in its completion (the age to come).

Our Central Message

The Christian Church announces that the (historically) crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ, fulfilled the prophetic hope of the Jewish Scriptures, expressing the sacrificial love of God the Creator in Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection and exaltation. Therefore divine grace flows through Him to anyone who through loving faith would be reconciled to God (and His design), justified (mercifully acquitted) by repentance, and spiritually renewed (presently and ultimately in the future).

As this is proclaimed to all generations, according to the Scriptures, God calls people to salvation from the inevitable and approaching judgment against idolatry, through undeserved grace. This is what leads us to repent (to receive the merciful acquittal) and put our hope in Jesus as the enthroned risen Lord (by trusting and following His scriptural and spiritual leadership).

Our message therefore is applicable to the genesis, evolution, and the end of our lives and the world. It makes sense of the scriptural narrative of the beginnings, it clarifies and indicates where we are as God’s people in God’s mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation (F.1), that is our eschatological hope of cosmic renewal and completion. This implies something beyond individualistic transformation— namely public ramifications for a disoriented world as observed in the New Testament (i.e. Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, teaching the poor and then His disciples, Jesus cleansing the temple, John the Baptist’s rebuke of Herod and consequential beheading, the stoning of Stephen, the capture of Jason, outcries at the temple of the goddess Artemis etc.).

The gospel of Jesus is not just merely personal benefits of Jesus’ crucifixion. The act of sacrificial love was not only couched deeply in the covenants of promise found in the Jewish Scriptures but also in a very specific announcement concerning the dawning of God’s redeeming kingdom, “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”(Mk. 1:15) This announcement came with a required response, a yoke of teaching, supernatural power, and a multitude of disciples.

Jesus expounding on this kingdom announcement makes sense of the messianic promises of God and His overthrowing of the enslaving spiritual powers and restoration of His covenant people. He offers parables to convey the nature, implications, and gradual development of the kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God Expounded Upon in Parables

Using the obvious fact that the same seed sown in different sorts of soil produces different harvests, Jesus conveys why the announcement of the Kingdom has different results among different people. I have found the observations of Shailer Mathews helpful in understanding this essential parable.

  • As seed sown on hard, beaten ground brings forth no harvest, so the word of the Kingdom has no effect upon the minds that give it no attention.
  • As seed sown on thin soil soon springs up and just as soon withers because of lack of soil, so certain persons hear the word of the Kingdom and immediately respond, but the same over-quick reaction leads them to abandon the word when persecution arises.  
  • As seed sown in ground which is good but already preoccupied by thorns springs up but fails to come to fruitage because it is choked out by thorns, so the gospel in strong lives springs up but fails of real results because those lives are engrossed in business or other worldly concerns 
  • Finally, as seed sown on good soil brings harvest but yet in some sort of proportion to the character of the soil, so the gospel in hearts that are ready to receive and follow it produce results although not always in the same measure.

Mathews sums up his observations by noting that, “If the proper attention is given the gospel its results come [naturally], but such results cannot come when it is made secondary to any other interest or is in any other way treated indifferently or lightly.” (F.2)

Jesus continues unfolding the mystery of the kingdom by another parable of weeds wickedly planted among wheat. In this story, Jesus demonstrates the other worldly wisdom of God. He announces that God has decided by His own counsel to delay the judgment and remove the enemies of the kingdom at the end of this age—that is the completion of the gospel mission. I offer three scriptural witnesses that reiterate this truth.

  • The first is when John and James seeing how a village rejects Jesus’ gospel asked Him to execute judgment right then and there, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”]” (Lk. 9:54-56)
  • The second witness is after Jesus' resurrection (before the ascension) when the disciples still hadn’t grasped this same truth in asking, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Meaning the overthrow of the then present day Rome. Jesus’ response undoubtedly brings them back to the truths of this parable, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” (Acts 1:6-7)
  • The third and last for this point is a prophetic witness we have in Revelation. John sees the martyrs, slain for the gospel and the testimony concerning Jesus, in the heavenly temple underneath the altar, “and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.” (Rev. 6:10-11) Here again God reaffirms the wisdom to delay His final condemnation of rebellion and idolatry that caused the murder of many who proclaimed this same news of Christ and His kingdom. 

Therefore, the announcement of God’s kingdom dawning implies a time for an intentional mission that will lead into and end with divine quintessential judgment, which will not be completed until this age has passed away, but will be the door through which we will all enter into the new age. I think it is noteworthy to acknowledge as this parable and the epistles reference, the condemnation is for the unrepentant but the gracious reward of eternal life (in the new age) will be afforded to those who appropriately respond to Christ’s announcement according to His requirement (repent and believe).

This is the antithesis of Christian impatience and paradoxically works in and against the grain of social reform in the normative sense. In this Christ calls us to resist the temptation to use worldly means to establish the kingdom, and execute justice and reform. However this does not permit social negligence. For wherever this message is being announced (and its mission performed) according to the Scriptures it carries intrinsic divine power unto societal transformation. Moreover, He warns us that our hopeful work is rooted in the knowledge that though God’s final judgment and reform is seemingly postponed, it is inevitable (and in the next parables we will see it is also progressive).

Again, it has been decided to await the end of the age when God Himself will establish His government and destroy whatever is antagonistic towards it, resulting in His triumph and consequently the triumph of the righteous by faith in Him. NOTE: Jesus ends the parable-oriented discussion reiterating this same truth in the parable of the net.

Which leads us to the other parables shedding more light concerning the kingdom mentioned in Christ’s gospel. Jesus uses the growth of a mustard seed into a tree to convey the progressive and invasive nature of God’s kingdom. Like the smallest of seed, Jesus helps His hearers to avoid dismay in God’s decision to start His cosmic revolution through a small and humble announcement and a few disciples. That the kingdom might be small in its inception but its triumph will be illimitable. The same truth is conveyed through the parable of yeast. No matter how small the beginning, or the heat and pressure of the social hostilities it may face (and still faces) this will only result (as we see historically) in tremendous growth, all culminating in the preordained end. The kingdom, though beginning small with a gospel to transform the human race (generation to generation) ultimately will fill the entire social and cosmic order with its principles and subject it to God’s authority in and through Christ.

Lastly, Jesus concludes with two parables (the hidden treasure and the costly pearl) to express the supreme value of God’s kingdom. The launch of this kingdom through an act of sacrificial love in its very nature appeals to a sacrificial response. The response is not only repentance (seeing that God’s ways are greater and turning to them) but an obedience characterized by self-sacrifice (namely as it pertains to the continued and pervasive culture of idolatry). Jesus doesn’t give reason for why the kingdom is supreme but glorifies its supremacy (which He equates to His Father’s supremacy) through His crucifixion. John’s gospel specifically captures this glory-oriented perspective of Jesus’ crucifixion. Surprisingly, it is not resurrection (and the power unto) that expresses the glory and supremacy of the kingdom but the crucifixion. Through means of His death, Christ demonstrates that God and His kingdom’s motivation stems from the purest and deepest of love. It is then fitting to take up and bear a spiritual cross of self-sacrifice not only as a responding love for God but as a continuing demonstration of His supreme love incarnate in our own lives. If we can justify the social custom of an indebted life, how much more those who receive this gospel on the basis of God's divine and dedicated love.
This is the Christian Church’s message and main contribution in the twenty-first century as in the first.. In my opinion, we must rediscover this glorious gospel, centralizing and stabilizing not only our conversations, but refocusing our mission which we will discuss in the upcoming articles. Too often do we offer a thin gospel capitalizing on the personal benefits without even attempting to reconcile the meta-narrative which Christ’s announcement does in truth.

As we go on this journey to reflect together on the conversations surrounding diversity (and inclusion) and missions, my hope is that you would take these observations and start first a prayerful meditation and New Testament reading on what this kingdom of God is according to Jesus and how this gospel should order and transform our lives, worldview, and work as those who aim to put our hope in it and endure with hope. We cannot have Jesus, the absolution of sin, and true spiritual prosperity without fully embracing Christ’s main claim of the dawning kingdom, its announcement, progressive nature, delay of final justice, inevitable end, and required response for inclusion (in said kingdom), expressed namely through merciful acquittal (justification), spiritual renewal (sanctification), and eternal reward (glorification). In the following article we will reflect on how this announcement came with a specific set of commands and teachings, supernatural power, and a co-mission that further orientates our lives and true work.

1. Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2006), p. 22.
2. Mathews, Shailer, The Biblical World , Jun., 1910, Vol. 35, No. 6 (Jun., 1910), pp. 420-427, The University of Chicago Press
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