Living Out the Gospel in a Diverse World

Fundamentally, we’re all part of the same human race. That’s why we all need the same gospel.

God’s Word reminds us that regardless of the color of our skin, we all have the same roots. Fundamentally, we’re all part of the same human race. That’s why we all need the same gospel.

Consider the starting point in the gospel for so many social issues: the creation of man and woman in the image of God with equal dignity before God. This means no human being is more or less human than another. Every person is made in God’s image.

What’s helpful in understanding groups of people, not to stereotype and isolate ourselves from them but to organize and engage them in meaningful ways, particularly with the gospel? To use the language of Genesis 10, we compose “clans” in separate “nations” that speak different “languages” in diverse “lands.”

Applied to our own setting in the United States, it makes no sense, then, to categorize our own country as a nation of black, white, brown, or other “races.” Instead, we’re a nation composed of increasingly diverse people groups. We are Anglo Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, and more. These categories can be subdivided further, based on other ethnolinguistic factors, leading us to the realization that we’re a nation of unique people groups with diverse histories from different lands with distinct customs and even languages. Surely this rich diversity of people can’t be adequately defined by skin tone, hair texture, or eye color alone.

In abandoning categories of black and white in discussions of race and racism, we can base our dialogue more meaningfully on ethnolinguistic characteristics, and we can pave the way for us as one race to call racism what it actually is: sin born in a heart of pride and prejudice. And in doing this, we’re setting the stage for understanding how the gospel is uniquely able to foster powerful unity in the middle of pervasive diversity. The cultural division between Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) was deep during the first century. Yet as the story of the church unfolds, we read that Gentiles began believing in Jesus, to many Jews’ surprise. At first Jewish Christians didn’t know how to respond. Should they accept even Gentile Christians? If so, did they need to impose Jewish customs on them? Though Gentiles were finally accepted into the church, they felt at best like second-class Christians.

Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:12-14,18-19 beautifully describe the unique power of the gospel to reunite people from (and, for that matter, within) different ethnic groups. And it makes sense, doesn’t it? For in the beginning sin separated man and woman from God and also from each other. This sin is at the root of ethnic pride and prejudice. When Christ went to the cross, He conquered sin, making the way for men and women to be free from it and restored to God. In so doing, He paved the way for men and women to be reconciled to one another. Followers of Christ thus have one “Father” as one family in one “household,” with no “dividing wall of hostility” based on ethnic diversity.

The gospel reminds us that when we’re talking about immigrants (legal or illegal), we’re talking about men and women made in the image of God and pursued by the grace of God. Consequently, followers of Christ with faith in God must see immigrants not as problems to be solved but as people to be loved. The gospel compels us to decry any and all forms of oppression, exploitation, bigotry, or harassment of immigrants, regardless of their legal status. These are men and women for whom Christ died, and their dignity is no greater or less than our own. And as part of the Father’s household, we’re called to love our neighbors.

By the grace of God, we must work to overcome prejudicial pride in our lives, families, and churches, a process that begins with changing the conversation about race altogether.

The article is excerpted from Counter Culture by David Platt.

Platt, David
David Platt was elected IMB president in August 2014. He previously served as pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. David earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, followed by master’s degrees of divinity and theology and a doctorate of philosophy from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, and Counter Culture. David also is the founder of Radical, a ministry devoted to disseminating disciple-making resources so that every believer can be engaged in making the gospel known to the ends of the earth.