The gospel and racists
I preached this Sunday on Galatians 3:1-14, which in some ways is simply Paul reiterating and developing what he has already said (he was a preacher after all!). As I was highlighting how the Bible shows that God's purpose has always been for a global community of believers, I found myself freshly furious with what I had watched on Question Time this week.
Here are the Scriptures I read:
- God says to mankind, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28)
- Then to Abraham, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
- “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9)
- “It is too light [small] a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
- “[Jesus] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:8-10)
- “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 [Jesus], 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)
The few verses above, with only a dash of context, do more than enough to destroy the fallacy of racial superiority. As I read them I suddenly felt angry, deeply angry: not only that people propagate racist views but that they have the gall to call them Christian, as Nick Griffin did this week.
In my preach I made just a couple of brief remarks, I felt I could have exploded. Why? I think it's deeper than the fact that, with two non-British grandfathers, I'm technically the kind of person this land could, apparently, do with less of. If it was just that then Peter Serafinowicz's "Adolf Brent" comment would have satisfied me. And it isn't anything to do with the legitimate debate about immigration that seems needed, which the BNP considers the thin end of its wedge. I think what enraged me was how antithetical to the gospel racism is; in essence how anti-God it is.
Look at Ephesians 3:10 (NIV) "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms." The Greek word translated "manifold" is "polupoikilov", a rather clumsy construction meaning multi-various. It was originally used to describe something that was multicoloured. Just in case you think I'm being cheeky with the context, here's verse 6: "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles [non-Jews] are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." The wisdom of God, the demonstration of God on the earth, is to be multicoloured: this is the apostolic understanding of the church, it is the blueprint that we should build according to.
Cultures are different, that's what is so glorious about a church in which many are found worshipping one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who - you'll know this if you read your Bible - was Himself an immigrant.