Followers of Christ are going to end up as part of “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God….’” (Rev.7:9) Knowing how our journey ends as children of God, how should we live in this world?
Jesus introduced the kingdom of God to the world and invited the world to “enter” it. Just as the first century Jews were only a portion of the world to whom Jesus extended that invitation, we in the West and in the United States of America are only a portion of the global world Jesus invites to enter God’s kingdom.
Jesus came, not to condemn, but to save the entire world full of people. We might as well get used to the diversity now.
I think it’s easy for us in the US to miss the fact that the global church today doesn’t look like us at all. The “average” Christian in the world today is a 22-year old brown female. Only 12% of the Christians in the world live in North America (including Canada). Only 37.5% of the Christians in the world live in the “west”.
It’s a human tendency to separate from and even to demonize things that are foreign to us. It’s also a human tendency to embrace things that are familiar to us, even to our detriment. Jesus calls us to separate from the world, which is familiar to us, and to embrace God’s kingdom, which is foreign to us in our “flesh” (as Paul calls it).
Jesus calls us to reject the sin that is familiar to us in exchange for His righteousness that is foreign to us. Righteousness is not of us or from us; righteousness is of God and from God.
Thus, Christians are uniquely called to be different from the rest of the world that embraces the familiar (both things of the world, generally, and specific aspects of this worldly specifically, such as gender, race, nationality, etc.). We are called to separate from this world that is familiar to us and to embrace a world that is foreign (the spiritual realm into which we must be born again).
This model of Christian living is demonstrated by Paul and the disciples in carrying out the Great Commission. Paul said that he became all things to all people that he might win some.
Paul quoted pagan poets and philosophers in his address on Mars Hill. (Acts 17) That means he read them and understood them. Thus, he was able to quote them appropriately and use those references that people knew to point them to God. This is because Paul embraced the fact that he was in the world, though he was not of the world.
This is what is means to carry out the Great Commission – to “go into all the world” making disciples. In the case of those disciples, God “encouraged” them with local persecution to scatter to Judea and and beyond. (We don’t always embrace what is foreign and unfamiliar to us willingly!)
We have the same command and challenge in our modern world. We don’t do these things easily or willingly. it takes us way beyond our comfort levels that are defined by what we know and what is familiar to us. When we take up our crosses and follow Jesus, he takes us into foreign territory!
One example of foreign territory is the modern worldview informed by Critical Theory. CRT informs the world on issues of racial injustice. As members of a kingdom comprised of every nation, tribe and tongue, we need to be able to speak into issues of racial injustice, and not just stand aloof.
In the following article, I tried to use the loaded term, intersectionality, to discuss the need for greater unity in the church: On the Intersection of Differences and Unity in the Body of Christ. My point in the article is that we shouldn’t shrug off or reject a word like “intersectionality” just because it is foreign to us.
We don’t need to be afraid if it. We can repurpose it, retool it and redeem a word like intersectionality to convey the Gospel message to people who don’t know the language of the Gospel.
We should not take such a term into the Church and allow it to recharacterize the Gospel, but neither should we demonize it and thereby demonize all the people familiar with the concept. Jesus always met people where they were. We can take a clue from him on that point.
I believe this is an extension of what it means to be in the world, but not of the world. We do need to understand that concepts like intersectionality and Critical Race Theory growing out of a worldview that does not recognize God or the Gospel – just like the quotations Paul used of pagan poets and philosophers grew out of a pagan worldview. Like Paul, though, we can use them to reach people who are familiar with those terms.
People who are familiar with Critical Race Theory often have a very warped and distorted view of the church and the Gospel. Many have them have embraced these concepts because they do not see the Church speaking addressing the injustices they see. The Church may even seem to them to be standing in the path of injustice. Demonizing CRT further distorts their view of us as enemies of them.
God calls us to leave the familiar behind, not just in distancing ourselves from our own sin, but in our willingness to “go into the world” and make disciples of Christ. Just as Jesus met people where they were, we need to be willing, as Paul was, to be all things to all people. This means seeking to understand people in their own elements.
We need to understand CRT and intersectionality, not to embrace it, but to reach people to whom the Gospel is foreign and unfamiliar. We can distinguish it from the Gospel without demonizing it. We can use their terminology to point them back to the Jesus and to the cross.
Our ultimate destination is God’s kingdom, which is a kingdom in which people of every tribe, nation and tongue will join together in the worship and love of God. Jesus introduced that kingdom on earth and invites us into it. The sooner we can embrace that aspect of God’s kingdom, the sooner and more fully we can live in this world as children of God and reach the world that Jesus came to save and not condemn.