What are some of the demands of the Kingdom of God in relation to Ethnic diversity?
The following ingredients are needed: God is the one who established diversity. It is remarkable that God, the creator of the universe, enjoys diversity. “In the quest to recognize and to appreciate diversity of ethnic groups, care must be taken to avoid ethnic labeling and stereotyping.”[i] There is no Jew nor Greek, no male nor female, no slave nor free. We are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28, emphasis added). The following elements are needed if we are to work together for the expansion of God’s kingdom.
First, we need to focus on Christ. He is our inspiration and example to follow. He died on the cross for all of our iniquities. His ministry was powerful and His compassion and love for different kinds of people was evident. In the Gospel of John, we found the account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus did not reject her because of her nationality; instead He spoke with her and met her specific need. Jesus revealed himself as Messiah to the Samaritan woman and everything changed (John 4:1-26). When we focus on Christ, we can complete the task regardless of the obstacles and challenges. It is not about us, but it is about working together to bless people who still need to hear the message of salvation.
Second, it is necessary to develop a sense of interdependent work. To work with people from other cultures requires developing a sense of community. The fact is that we need each other and the things that every person in the team does affect everybody else. Thus, values are important when it comes to team work. It is paramount to share a common set of principles with others. The substitute to mistrust and paternalism in the relationship between people from different cultures is not independence and self-sufficiency; it is interdependence. And interdependence “comes with a deeper understanding of unity in Christ.”[ii] Why are we working together? What is the main reason? These questions are essential for us because they help us to learn from each other. Therefore, denominations, churches, and missionary agencies need to develop an interdependent spirit among their staff and team members.
Third, mutual submission is required. Jesus gave us His example by totally submitting himself to the will of His Father. Paul also exhorts us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”[iii] Submission requires us to be humble and respect each other. This kind of submission is based on our love for God and for each other. Unbelievers will notice when we are exercising mutual submission and accountability. This is for the benefit of the growth of the kingdom.
Fourth, everything that we do is for the sake of the kingdom. All the challenges and friction that come with dealing with diverse people in our teams it can be alleviated by the fact that everything that we do together will advance God’s kingdom. “One of the challenges that we may face is to be driven by personal interest rather than kingdom principles.”[iv]We are part of God’s kingdom and God has entrusted us a marvelous commission. We can strength each other knowing that we “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom 8:37).
Lastly, the people involved need to be flexible. Every person involved in missions knows the importance of flexibility. This is a very crucial aspect to be considered if we want to work with different ethnic people groups. Frustration and resistance arise when team members are not willing to be flexible. This is a learning and humbling process that allows us to grow and understand different perspectives. There needs to be a common ground that facilitates the communication and dynamics within the group. Working with majority world missionaries requires being flexible. For instance, the sense of time is different in every culture. We cannot assume that everybody will react in the same manner that we do.
[i] James Breckenridge, and Lillian Breckenridge, What Color Is Your God?: Multicultural Education in the Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 1995), 89.
[ii] Johannes Nissen, “Unity and Diversity: Biblical Models for Partnership,” Mission Studies 14, (1-2 1997): 140.
[iii] See Ephesians 5:21.
[iv] Victor H. Cuartas, “Implicaciones Éticas y los Desafíos de los Negocios Como Misión en los
Países de Acceso Creativo.” Global Missiology in Spanish (July 2009). Under “Settings,” http://www.globalmissiology.org/espanol/ (accessed February 15, 2010).