Friday, April 12, 2013

In your Witness: Are you reflecting Christ?

English: mirror, reflecting a vase Deutsch: * ...
Mirror reflecting a vase (Wikipedia)
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Colossians 1:2b)

Paul's salutation to the Colossians is his standard greeting in most of his  epistles. Paul greets the believers at Colossae in two ways, a Greek way (grace, χαρις, meaning “favor”) and a Jewish way (peace, ειρηνη, meaning “concord, safety, and prosperity”). 

The church at Colossae, like nearly all the churches Paul wrote, was a multicultural church. Paul is greeting them in their cultures and affirming their culture as part of who they are. 

Culture and diversity are good things. The problem is when those words are hijacked by people who use them to celebrate sin or to stamp out the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God created culture, not some self-declared elites in Chapel Hill or Washington D.C. 

The goal of diversity and multiculturalism is found in Revelation 7:9, "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" There we see the beautiful variety of the nations' worshiping Christ around His Throne. Here's the secret: The worship of Jesus by the cultures of the earth reflects their witness to the royal sovereignty of the Messiah. That is why it is just fine to tailor the worship style, music, and the setting to the culture we are reaching whether on the mission field or among our own subcultures.

So then why aren’t many of our churches multicultural? Because it’s easier to associate with people like ourselves. The only problem with that is it does not mirror the example of the early church.
Do you think an Hispanic woman should have to learn the English language to become a Christian? That would be ridiculous, right? Or should a West African be required to learn Western hymns in order to become a Christian? Of course not. In the same way, we be flexible in our methods in order to communicate effectively the timeless message of Christ among the nations. 

There are of course doctrinal limits to contextualization of the Gospel, but the Gospel of Jesus is Good News which can transcend and redeem cultures. Our reward on this earth includes then enjoyment of many beautiful forms of worship among believers around the world.  

It should go without saying, (but unfortunately it cannot), that Paul's greeting to a multicultural church should remind us that within Christ's church there should be no hint of racism. Attitudes of disdain or revulsion, superiority or fear should have no life in a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17). Our common redemption and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ transcends the small-minded pettiness of prejudice. Where we find it in our lives or our churches, we find the horror of a rooted rejection of the Lord's leadership and a latent hatred for the Great Commission's command to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19).

In your witness among those of your own culture and among the nations of the earth, are you reflecting Christ?