What does it mean to celebrate cultural differences in church? Does it mean white people should try to wear dashikis? Or should black people bring hot sauce to the casserole potluck? If it were that simple, I think we’d have it down by now. As great as it would be to see my white family take wardrobe risks, simply adopting pieces of other cultures only paints the pink elephant a different color. We need something that addresses the root of our cultural separation.
We love comfort. We enjoy what is familiar. In fact, we make life decisions based on the CROI — comfort return on investment (I made this up, don’t google it.) In other words, we are continually but subconsciously seeking more comfort and we invest our lives in anything that brings us more of it. We want what we want and if an activity does not contribute to our CROI, we want nothing to do with it. Just the other day in a conversation I had with a brother, I couldn’t stop thinking about how he could contribute to my law firm’s bottom line. Instead of our engagement being simply about encouragement, I couldn’t escape the thought of financial gain. Simply recounting the thought grieves me to tears.
How sad our state by nature is!
Our sin, how deep it stains!
And Satan binds our captive minds
Fast in his slavish chains
We have a heart issue and most of us don’t know how bad it really is. Jeremiah says "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). Our hearts cunningly make us believe lies are true — so much so that we don’t even call them lies anymore, they are “alternative facts.” We believe our comforts contribute to a better life. In reality, our unrighteous pursuit of comfort separates us from God and his people. If you are a Christian, this is important.
This is the sin that prevents us from making authentic, meaningful connections across cultural lines. Many times we don’t even have enough margin for those we readily relate with. Since some of us know that racial reconciliation is important, we try and celebrate the holidays that are special to a specific ethnic group and we acknowledge their important historical church leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. But that’s an easy fix that still does not address our hearts.
Biblical racial reconciliation is addressing the sin that caused the divide for the purpose of bonding together across racial lines based on a shared commitment to Jesus Christ with the goal of service to others. -Tony Evans, Oneness Embraced
Therefore, authentic oneness comes as an outgrowth of shared lives, not simply through a cross-cultural experience here or there. I must deny every pleasure that prevents me from living out the reality that Christ has united once racially divided groups. This is why I attend City on a Hill — to foretaste John’s grand vision in Revelation:
After this I looked, and behold, 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, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”