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Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

God calls us to participate in God’s mission, and we should respond in worship and obedience. However, we can get distracted by concerns that hinder our right responses to God.

In Jonah 1:1-16, God comissions Jonah to carry a message to a city called Nineveh. Jonah travels by ship in the opposite direction because he doesn’t want to preach to people he doesn’t like. God responds, and people on the ship respond, but Jonah ignores. The people on the ship cast lots and question Jonah, who admits his identity and responsibility and tells them to throw him into the sea. They try to avoid that by taking other actions. After praying to God, they reluctantly toss him. Then they fear, worship, and vow to God. (Note that the sailors are not members of Jonah’s religious community.)

God wants us to worship. When we lose focus on God and worship our own desires instead, God is not without worship. Others can worship God. Our preferences for our own groups and our prejudices against other groups can blind us to that beautiful truth, which calls us to embrace diverse people who worship God.

Instead of focusing on our own desires or worrying about who is or is not worthy to worship God, let’s just worship and obey God! Worship and obedience lead us to recognize and live out God’s love for all people groups in the spirit of Jesus, who died for the whole world.

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After Peter has a shocking vision, he goes to a home where people are waiting to hear about Jesus. They already believe in God. While Peter’s there, they experience the Holy Spirit and are baptized.

When other Jesus-followers hear about Peter’s response to the vision, they too are shocked. They wonder why Peter hangs out with “uncircumcised men” (people who aren’t in the right group). When Peter tells them the story of the vision and the family’s experience, however, the objections give way to praise.

Like in this New Testament story, ministry today must extend beyond our “comfort zones.” The work of God is not confined to church buildings but dwells in love among people who don’t yet feel like they belong in our groups.

This way of faith requires humble and intentional flexibility. While maintaining our commitment to the core components of Christian faith, we must constantly work to overcome cultural boundaries of appearance, personality, worldview, and wardrobe.

If you’re a member of a congregation less diverse than its city, your church needs to hear this story. If you’re already living out this mission of reconciliation, let this story recharge you. In all our situations, I pray our objections will give way to praise.

(Day 320: Acts 11-13)

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While Peter’s praying, he falls into a trance and has a vision (or daydream) from God. The message shocks this devout and prayerful man of faith. Peter learns that God welcomes all people into the way of Christ. Beginning with this story, the church is no longer just a sect of Jews; it’s a movement of the Spirit that embraces people of diverse cultural backgrounds.

The theme of diversity appears throughout the rest of the New Testament, and it’s a core element of the church’s purpose as a primary agent of God’s uniting mission. It’s a theme we should remember in our own era, especially in areas (like the one in which I live) that still suffer various levels of racism.

I pray that the church will accept its responsibility to initiate reconciliation in the name of Christ. Peter’s vision must still shape our identity as Jesus-followers.

(Day 319: Acts 9-10)

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