It’s World Cup time and the world’s most popular sport is in full mania mode. Tens of thousands of nationals from all around the world have gathered to cheer on their country’s soccer team, catch a glimpse of Messi or Ronaldo, or just take in the electric atmosphere produced by this quadrennial event. I’ve never been, but I don’t think I’d pass up the opportunity if it came around. How cool would it be to be part of a crowd of thousands rooting on their country, as some of the world’s finest athletes criss-cross a pitch for ninety minutes, setting up and waiting for the rare opportunity to strike at the goal. But that’s only part of it. I love the diversity of the people comprising both the tournament and its spectators. I love that the spectacle draws teams from thirty-two nations, and people from countless other nations, races, ethnicities, languages, and cultures, into one place with a unified objective: To lift up their own. Indeed, it’s likely one of the most diverse events in the world.
As attractive as it all is, though, it doesn’t come close to the beautiful diversity of the Church. What a cause for rejoicing that we who comprise the body of Christ come in every color, ethnicity and language group. I look forward to the glorious day when I get to meet and know my brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world, to hear their testimonies, tell them mine, and worship our Savior for eternity. Just think about the worship alone, and how vast and far-reaching its constituents will be. In the Lord’s revelation to John, we get a glimpse of the unparalleled worship of heaven. There, songs rise to Jesus who, by His blood, “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9.) One day, I will get to bow alongside the redeemed of Iran, India, China, Egypt, and all the others from “every tribe and language and people and nation.” The worship will make the World Cup madness look like a backyard party. It will be deafening. It will be without reservation. It will be all consuming. And, praise God, it will be diverse.
We live in a day and society where merely the mention of diversity conjures up strong emotions of all sorts in people’s minds. Yet, we as the Church should indeed rejoice that our bond in Christ far transcends political systems and man-made cultures that perpetuate division. And more than that, we should take every opportunity to champion and support our Christian brothers and sisters whose ethnicity or race differs from ours. We should lead the world in this regard. Why? For one, we’re commanded to. The apostle John wrote, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3:11.) He continued, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16.) When we love—as in the kind of love that God commands in 1 Corinthians 13—the negative baggage that so often permeates public discourse on diversity disappears. That is so because so much of that baggage is fed by fear and because “[t]here is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18.)
How do we support our Christian family? How do we champion them? If we don’t already, we must “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24.) It looks different for each of us. What can I do today to love my brothers and sisters in Christ who look different from me? Pray for them? Empathize with them? Speak up for them? Maybe even to get to know them? Have fellowship with them? Worship with them? It always starts with the heart, doesn’t it?
Jesus, we pray that You would make our hearts right when it comes to championing our brothers and sisters in Christ. Help us rid our hearts of thinking that is contrary to Your Word, despite what the world around us is shouting in our ears. Help us speak when it is right to do so, and to speak Your truth in love in those times. Help us to act, as You lead us, and not be complacent with regard to our Christian family, however situated and wherever they may be. Help us to be courageous for the causes of Christ.
"... perfect love casts out fear."
1st John 4:18