A Color Blind Church?

“Unity does not mean sameness. It means oneness of purpose.” – Priscilla Shirer

My wife and I were on our flight home from a wonderful visit with her family and friends. We got comfy and waited for the rest of the passengers to board. I pulled out my book and began reading as the plane took off. However, my ears began to pick up a conversation in the row ahead of us from a group coming home from a missions trip.

“I learned a lot about how others really need the Gospel,” said one. The leader responded, “Yes, it is clearly seen with a group who has never heard the Gospel before. That group of people never had seen a white man before or knew about a church. I am grateful we were able to give them the Gospel and help them start a good church.”

This conversation pulled me from my book and grabbed my attention. Never seen a white man before? I knew what the phrase meant, but it hit me it an odd way like bad fish. The sentence of putting “white man” and “church” together needed some searching for me.

What does the Bible say about the church and race? And did it connect to having a “good church”?

Two Conflicting Passages

Galatians 3:28 – There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Revelation 7:9 – After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands.

The New Testament discuss the beginning and the doctrine of the church. However, in my search of race and the church, I came across Galatians 3:28 (and others like it). “Well, that clears it up. There is to be no distinction of races in the church. All are equal and one.” I thought my research was done. Yet, I remembered passages in Revelation (like 7:9) where it is mentioned that there are people from every tribe, language, and nation. These passages were recognizing racial and cultural diversity.

Is it a contradiction? Does God really see diversity in the church or does he want everyone the same that these divisions do not matter?

Being Color Blind

According to Meriam-Webster dictionary, to be “Colorblind” means to “not be influenced by differences of race; especially: free from racial prejudice.”

Seeing and treating everyone as the same, despite their racial background, is highly valued in our world today. We are not to judge people because of their race or treat them differently because of their race. We would all agree this is a good thing.

There have been so many battles and debates won in order to make sure we stop people being treated differently because of their race.

But, should the church be colorblind?

Seeing Color – Being One

When we look at the book of Revelation, it mentions there are people from every tribe, language, and nation. In Revelation 21 it mentions the nations brining in their glory into the New Jerusalem. There is no “color blindness” (I am using this phrase in a different way) in these passages.

Why? Does God not want the church to be colorblind?

Passages, like Galatians 3:28, are not referring to being color blind, but are referring to an equality of faith. Everyone is equal in the church. There should be no favoritism. There is no discrimination of race or gender or status in the church.

Yet, we see God mentioning people groups in Heaven and on the New Earth not as one, but as nations. God is recognizing diversity. He is the one that created all of us whether of one race or the other and whether male or female. He loves diversity. In Revelation, there is no mention of a “heavenly language” that we will all speak. It says people from every language. Yet, His people are all one in Heaven through Christ.

There is nothing wrong with recognizing the diversity of people in our churches. We are all one in Christ, but we all come from different backgrounds, races, cultures, and languages. These are God ordained. Diversity is beautiful. When we recognize diversity in the church, we see people as different, yet redeemed by Christ.

In doing so, we begin to see how each person can contribute to the church. We see the history of God working in a culture. We begin to see how we can go to a different country and worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Unfortunate White-Washing

In American conservative churches (this is where I mainly observed this), there is a push for being colorblind. However, what has that done?

We see churches that have white-washed themselves. Everything that is done or celebrated is mainly “white.” I have seen a mural in a church that promoted itself as reaching to the nations and being culturally diverse. The mural portrayed various people in church history. However, all of them were white.

If God shows us a glimpse of Heaven and it has people of every tribe, language, and nation, then shouldn’t we be churches that begin to recognize how every nation has a part in church history? Every race may do church differently, yet we can learn from them? Every language can bring out a new way of understanding the Bible?

Without Color… Creativity is Lost

My favorite painting is Starry Night by Van Gogh. Yet, look at it without its color. It is still interesting to look at. Yet, something is missing. The colors work together as one to show the creativity and mind of Vincent Van Gogh.

The church is the same. Without seeing the diversity in the church, we lose the mindset of God of using diversity to the purpose of seeing His glory though the church as they reach individuals with the Gospel.

Each tribe, each language, and each nation has something to add to the church as it marches towards God’s purpose.

We are all one and equal in Christ. Yet, we recognize that our diversity can come together as one, like a beautiful painting, to show the glory of God through Jesus Christ as He works through His church.

Painting our Churches

But, now what? How can we do this in our churches today?

First, look around you. Look for the diversity in your church. Now, if the “diversity” goes against God’s Word, then it should not be recognized (for example, sin is not diversity). But, look for the diversity in the people in the church. Look how God has redeemed each one of you to be apart of His church. Find out the stories of grace that are in your church.

Second, take a trip to the bookstore or library. Have you ever read about the history of Christianity in China? Or in India? Have you ever read about the Spirituals written during the time of slavery in the US? Have you read biographies of women risking their lives for the sake of the Gospel? Do you know how God has worked in the drug cartels in Colombia? Have you taken time to see how God works through history and culture to show how He uses diversity to bring Himself glory?

Third, in our churches, are we celebrating our diversity? Have you taught your congregation a song in another language? It does not have to be on Missions Week. Are you teaching about God working in all cultures and celebrating the contributions all groups of people have given to the church throughout history?

Our culture tells us to be colorblind. In that sense of the word, yes. Never judge someone because of their race and background.

In the church we see each other as equals because of Christ. Yet, we see the “color” of diversity God is using in the church to accomplish His purpose.

“Never Seen a White Man Before”

As I think back to the conversation I heard on the plane, I can’t help but think that this group is missing out on how they should be viewing God’s church. I wanted to ask, “What if someone from Ghana or China brought them the Gospel before you?”

Let us, as a church, appreciate the diversity in the church and see how that brings color to God’s world and how that diversity can be used to march forward in oneness towards God’s purpose of the church.

Lord we stand in the midst of a multitude
Of those from every tribe and tongue
We are Your people redeemed by Your blood
Rescued from death by Your love
There are no words
Good enough to thank You
There are no words to express my praise
But I will lift up my voice
And sing from my heart
With all of my strength

Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
To the Lamb
Hallelujah hallelujah
By the blood of Christ we stand
Every tongue every tribe
Every people every land
Giving glory giving honor
Giving praise unto the Lamb of God

Lord we stand by grace in Your presence
Cleansed by the blood of the Lamb
We are Your children called by Your name
Humbly we bow and we pray

Release Your power
to work in us and through us
Till we are changed
To be more like You
Then all the nations will see
Your glory revealed
And worship You

Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
To the Lamb
Hallelujah hallelujah
By the blood of Christ we stand
Every tongue every tribe
Every people every land
Giving glory giving honor
Giving praise unto the Lamb of God

Author: Stephen Field

Living with a disability while pursuing the truth of God's Word and proclaiming it. I am married and enjoying each adventure with my wife. It is a life together, or not at all. I have a BA in Youth Ministry (minor in French), a MA in Cross-Cultural Studies (Ministry Studies), and am currently tackling my MDiv in Biblical Languages. I have worked as an interim youth pastor, substitute taught in public schools, and currently teach Com 101 (Fundamentals of Speech) at Bob Jones University. My passion is to see Christians be able to use their Bible and interact with the world around them based on the foundation of God's Truth.

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