Heaven is many ethnicities worshipping as one race. So protect the race.
There is a great joy in strolling the campus of Southwestern Seminary and seeing the many races interact with one another, and in our chapel services worship with one another. Asian, Anglo, Indian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, African, African American, and others moving as one family; what a joy to see the races worshipping together.
Worship is in fact more authentic when it imitates ideal worship in heaven. And in Rev. 5:9 John sees the Lamb receiving worship from the redeemed of every ethnicity! What he does with them next, is quite shocking. He makes them into, “a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” The new earth will be reined by a new race, a spiritual race composed of many ethnicities. So while we should welcome all ethnicities of to our fellowship, we should make it clear that we are after seeing people captivated by immigration into this single new race. This is why “racism”, understood as discrimination, dies in the face of the Gospel. This idea is woven through Scripture.
Paul makes it clear that while we are all born in sin, some of us are transferred from darkness to light, strangers to friends, and aliens to sons and daughters (Eph 2). The result is that now we are citizens. Many ethnicities with one spiritual nationality: the kingdom of God. It is equally clear that those who stay in darkness have another lineage; they are children of other parents (Eph 2:1-3). Peter sums this up when he says we are a “holy race” (I Peter 2:9). This distinction is the greatest that any one could imagine. Some are children of wrath, others are children of God. Some are actually banking wrath that will be unleashed at another time (Romans 2:4, 5). Two races of people could not be more different.
So, what if you are sitting in church and someone sits beside you and they are of a complete different spiritual race? They are under the wrath of God and do not know it. How do you handle that situation?
Integration without Intimidation
First, remember we want them there. There is nothing more pleasing to a pastor to know that sitting under the hearing of the word of God are people who are hopelessly lost without Christ. It puts a bit of fire under him to know that eternity hangs on the reception of the word. People of the other spiritual race should be welcome to visit, investigate, and spend time with us. The only hope for the lost is that they integrate seamlessly around the church. People should be seamlessly integrated into the periphery of the church. The front door of the church should be fluid; graciousness propelled by a love for all people who are swimming in the common grace of God. Very gracious people on very porous pews.
Integration with Love
However, what should be most shocking to our spiritual senses is when people of a another spiritual race become members of a church, or in leadership of a church, without ever being asked if they have indeed repented and come into the new race God has created. My fear is that this is done more often than we think without the faintest concern for their soul. The grace of God is not sealed by a handshake at the front, but by repentance and faith. This is why a public profession is more theologically represented in baptism than any other means. Nothing says welcome to the family like imitating death. The vulnerability of submersion is a witness to Christ and a welcome accountability of a person’s life.
As a pastor I was alarmed at members who would say to me, “This individual would be a great teacher for this Bible Study class.” It was clear to me the person in question had little evidence of a love for God’s word or His church. They were gregarious and willing, but did not evidence salvation.
Our primary defense against leaders who are not of the same spiritual race is a strong pulpit. The pulpit is the way we show, by our fidelity to Scripture and the passion of the words we choose, that we are willing to give our lives for the protection of the race. This is why the pastor has a double stewardship; he is a steward of the truth and a steward of the people (I Tim. 4:15; 6:20; II Tim. 1:14: Titus 1:9). He keeps the sword sharp in order to keep the sheep safe.
We must love people by being vigilant to make sure they don’t reject the One who can make them a citizen of a new country. Yet, we should be equally vigilant to ensure that those leading this effort are not illegal aliens who have crept in unnoticed; jumped in without a splash or ripple (Jude 4). We should have enough love for them that we vet them spiritually before integrating them into leadership. I have yet to meet a genuine believer who was hurt when they were asked about their salvation. After all, that is the purpose of the integration in the first place. This is not a social club. The purpose of integration is providing an environment where people can immigrate to the new race!
Many ethnicities, worshipping as one race. That is heaven. Fighting for that race is fighting for heaven on earth. God help us settle for nothing less.