Because life is a series of edits

The Color of Heaven

In Church, Family, Places, Thought on December 6, 2008 at 8:53 am

We had quite an international experience Friday night. Our friends, the Venkatesans, are from India and invited a few families over for dinner to celebrate Arun’s birthday (he’s a doctor here in St. Louis). In addition to the Venkatesans and us, there was another American family, another family from India, and a family from Pakistan who joined us for the festivities.

I was asked to pray for the meal, which I did, and then we ate. Despite my having the world’s blandest taste buds, the authentic Indian cuisine was amazing as Reena toned down the spices a bit in honor of her American guests. The kids (15 in all) were all over the place playing together, and we adults laughed and laughed at the stories Arun (pronounced “ah-roon”) and Reena told us about their families, their childhoods, and their time in America.

The thought that kept running through my mind during the evening was just how wonderful living in a culturally diverse eternity is going to be. No language barriers, no racial profiling/stereotyping, no bad blood between nations – just people of all colors whose defining commonality and sole identity is that they love and are loved by God:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3:28-29

Of course, we are to work toward this kind of manifold eternal existence in our temporal one, but it can be difficult because of the challenges mentioned above. Still, what can help in the pursuit of what seems impossible here and now is the vision of what one day will surely come to pass:

“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!’” Revelation 7:9-10

In case you’ve never thought about it, Heaven is going to be a very non-white place with lots of Indian (among other) food. How do I know? I tasted it last night.

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  1. Just wondering what you thought… are we really to just wait until the parousia to see this happen? Shouldn’t at least some churches work toward a multi-ethnic church in which people do not work just as a European, Asian, Indian, etc. church but as one people embracing the covenant together while honoring ethnic distinctives? Is the description of the multiethnic churches in Acts merely descriptive vs. normative? Or is it merely something that will only happen in Heaven and not, to some larger degree, on earth?

  2. note: “work” = worship.

  3. I guess I didn’t mention that we met the Venkatesans through our church.

    To answer your questions, I think churches are called to be as multi-ethnic, multi-generational, and multi-socioeconomic as possible, and that Acts is to be more normative than only descriptive (though this was certainly not my experience, at least racially speaking, growing up in a very homogenous, rural, white American culture).

    Obviously, our diversity will be most fully displayed in Heaven, but that reality doesn’t let us off the hook in the here and now. Focusing or forcing a church to minister only to upper-class whites or inner-city African-Americans or second-generation Koreans seems really different from where I think we’re going, both ecclesiologically and eschatologically speaking.

    Granted, diversity is a lot harder now than it will be then because of our collective sin, as we all bring our stereotypes and biases against each other into the equation, but everyone from Abraham to Moses to Jesus to Paul to the apostles pushed toward the vision of seeing God’s covenant people transcend and include all races in Scripture, so it would seem appropriate for us to do the same as much as possible in our local expressions of Christ’s Body.

  4. thanks. i agree! pray that we will see more churches that see that as well!

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