“Here [in the church] there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
Building on Sunday’s sermon, Racial Harmony and Racial Intermarriage (1-16-05), there are a few more things I think I should say. First, let’s put the foundation in place again: It seems clear to me that God wills ethnic diversity in the world and in the church. He ordained that there be races, and, in the end of the age, he plans that there will be “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” (Revelation 7:9). The fact that this diversity is so early and so durable tells us that God delights in the way his glory is refracted in different ethnic groups and cultures.
The fact that these ethnic differences are all rooted in one original set of parents, Adam and Eve, warns us not to exalt the value of one group over another, nor to demean one group under another. We are first human, in the image of God, and that should be more important and more decisive for our relationships than our differences are. Our common origin in Adam, and in the image of God, warns against using diversity as a means of boasting or belittling. Differences are good and important, but secondary to our simply being human in the image of God.
What about intermarriage then? Does it contradict the diversity God wills? Some speak of intermarriage as the dilution of God-willed differences. Some speak of the offspring of interracial marriage as “half-breeds” and a “mongrel race.” I cannot bring myself to believe that the mingling of racial traits in the children of interracial marriages is a “diluting” of the diversity God wills. The “races” have never been pure or well-defined. The human lines that flowed from the sons of Noah (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) have flowed into far more diversity than three ethnic types of human beings. Just one example: Genesis 10:6, “The sons of Ham [are] Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.” The ethnic and “racial” differences between Canaanites and Cushites and Egyptians were significant. In other words, “race” is a fluid concept with no clear boundaries. God seems to delight not just in three but in thousands of variations of human beings.
Moreover, the offspring of inter-ethnic marriages add to the diversity of the human race rather than diluting it. The scope of the world’s peoples is so huge that there is no serious possibility that intermarriage will reduce diversity of peoples. In fact, there is more likelihood that new ethnic types will emerge rather than that all will become the same—let alone “mongrel.” As Canaanites (Arabs) and Cushites (black Africans) emerged from one line (Ham, Genesis 10:6), at what point did intermarriage within this line become destructive to God’s ordained diversity? It appears that God willed that the so-called three “races” should diversify increasingly rather than be preserved in purity. after the flood, God set in motion a process of increasing diversification of ethnicities (cf. Genesis 10:5). He is not concerned with limiting diversity to a few peoples. He plans multiplication of increasing numbers of peoples.
Not only does interracial marriage multiply diversity under God’s providence, it also instigates peace within diversity. Yes, there are exceptions—a white father may never speak to his black son-in-law. But another wonderful possibility exists. Indeed it comes to pass over and over in interracial marriages. A once-bigoted group of relatives is forced to see as a person the “outsider” who just married their “insider.” The newcomer into the family is not just a race any more. He or she is a person. Over time the suspicions and prejudices and hostilities die away, and something beautiful is born—reconciliation and respect and harmony, spreading out beyond the marriage in ways no one thought possible. The once angry father now views all his ethnic colleagues at work differently.
Finally, I would draw attention once more to Christ, the Son of God, at the center of all this diversity in the church. Paul makes Christ the issue in the harmonious diversity that he celebrates. “Here [in the church] there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). We are not interested in diversity for diversity’s sake. We are not interested in being popular or politically correct. We are interested in moving toward the visible experience of Colossians 3:11.
That means moving toward a more visible display of Christ being our all and Christ being manifestly in all. When Christ is our all, and when Christ is in all, ethnic differences change from being barriers to become blessings. Even “barbarians” and the most distant of them, “Scythians,” are in the new “race”—the church. The head of this race is no longer Adam, but the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), Jesus Christ. God aims that in this new “race” of humans all ethnic groups in the world will be included (Matthew 24:14). Inter-ethnic marriage in this new humanity is one manifestation and one means of Christ being all in all.
Moving toward heaven with you,