The multiethnic Bride of Christ has a gospel-glow about her. One time I had a conversation with a neighbor who noticed, and she insisted that I give her an explanation.
I was seated on her living room floor drinking coffee and eating fruit when she brought it up. "Last night," she began, "I was watching your house." My eyebrows raised.
She continued, "My face was stuck to the window all night."
Ev'ry Kindred, Ev'ry Tribe on This Terrestrial Ball
Our church had a potluck at our place the night before. I racked my brain to remember if the youth had played any particularly noisy games in the garden, or if I had seen any cars park in her driveway by mistake.
She continued, "I saw all these people from many countries turning into your gate carrying food." I explained to her what a potluck-style meal was all about. She fired off many questions: "Why were all of you eating together? How do you know them? Does everyone eat the food?" Then, wide-eyed, she asked an incredibly honest question:
“But why would you want to eat with all of those different people?”
What she really wanted to know about was what brought together all those different people to share a meal. The Lord had swung open a door for me to talk about the reconciling work of Jesus on the cross (both vertically with God and horizontally with each other) and how his death purchased for God worshipers from every tribe on the earth. Our local church is made up of people from about 60 different countries-- a tiny fraction of "every tribe and language and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9). "If you want to know the short answer," I concluded, "it's that we're united in one family through Jesus Christ."
My neighbor was silent for a moment and then she responded, "I've never heard anything like that before in my life."
I think we would do well to be slack-jawed at this race-reconciling gospel, too. One way to stoke the fires of affection for Christ is by marveling at his work in the lives of others. My dear friend Trillia Newbell has written a book combining those very things-- the beauty of racial diversity in the body of Christ and awe-struck wonder at the Savior who sacrificially ransomed his bride.
Trillia skillfully defends from Scripture that Christians from different ethnicities are in fact, blood-related. Our unity is grounded in the blood-soaked cross of Jesus Christ, and therefore transcends things like nationality, neighborhood, economics, diet, education, and hobbies.
Trillia's story points us to the gospel as our hope for unity as we look forward to the future. Because the grace of God has appeared and interrupted our futile efforts of self-glorification, God has promised that he would be the architect of a new city that is coming. This city has no temple "for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb." And this city has no need for the sun or the moon "for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb." We will do something extraordinary in this light-- something we were created to do. We, the nations, are going to walk by that light together in the city, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. We will have no more fearful suspicion of our neighbors, and instead of building walls around ourselves we will live in a city where the gates are never shut (Rev. 21:21-26).
Glory together with Trillia in United how even now, when we walk in the light of Christ our fear and arrogance is replaced with blessing and honoring one another.
This is a worship-full and enjoyable book. I love the fact that Trillia wrote United for her children. She says that she hopes they will read the book one day and wonder, "Why would Mommy see the need to write a book about this?" because the experience of racial discord would be so foreign to them. Amen.