One thing I’ve noticed about the church in America is its pride to be American. I’ve been to conferences where they’ve sang God Bless America as one of their opening songs as if it belongs in the area of worship.
Another thing I’ve noticed about the church is the segregation of race and nationality in the body of Christ. There are white churches, and black churches, and Mexican churches, and Polish churches, and Chinese churches, and so on, and it is strange for someone to cross those invisible boundaries and walk into a church that contains people different than them.
I was discussing race and culture with my husband, and like always when we’re having a good discussion, I had a realization, or more accurately, a re-realization. I knew this before but learned it in a different context.
I became a Christian here in Chicago while I was doing an internship at a youth center on the north side. I am from Ontario, Canada. Needless to say I stood out against the backdrop of the neighborhood I was working in. I had actually had cross-cultural experiences in Mexico and Puerto Rico prior to this. But now I knew the Lord Jesus Christ, and was a new creation. It was then that I learned that culture, race and language didn’t matter. Not that these backgrounds aren’t important to who a person is, but the pride behind them is unfounded to the Christian. “But our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
After my experience in Chicago, the Lord sent me back to Canada for a time. Eventually I was able to come back to the United States and get married, and now here I am. I say I had a re-realization because I had forgotten this lesson that I had learned for a while. The context my husband and I minister in is different than the one I was raised in. I am even learning a new language. I was finding myself a bit frustrated and feeling out of place, when I was reminded of these things.
“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11). In the body of Christ there is no division. I cannot boast about my national citizenship or my ethnic heritage. I cannot express pride to be a Canadian. I cannot, and will not, segregate myself from a group of people because of language or race or anything else. The body of Christ must not be divided.
Our citizenship is in heaven. So why do we boast as if being American or Canadian or whatever is something to be proud of. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). The body of Christ is one. So why do we segregate our church buildings into ethnic groups as if each should be autonomous?
When will we learn what it really means to be one in Christ?