Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This was a radical idea to me. It meant that the classifications and even allegiances that people have such as nationality, status, job, were not the primary definers of a Believer. It meant that a person was primarily indentified as a Christian and a member of the Kingdom of God. This membership with the Kingdom transcends race, ethnicity, skin-colour or nationality. Thus, the believer's view of the world is not prioritised by the immediate but the eternal. Neither is it prioritised with the 'my own backyard comes first' view of the world but rather a new view of the whole earth belonging to the Lord who cares about more situations (and probably more important situations) than those in our immediate geography.
Romans 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also...
Understanding our new identity helps us to begin to begin to see the world the way God sees it. We are a part of what the King of Kings is doing in the whole earth, not just our city. We are joined with brothers and sisters in Christ whom we have never even met or heard of! Just as in New Testament times when Gentile believers helped Jewish believers, we have opportunity to do similar today. These early Christians regarded Christ as their new identity and realised that this identity was shared by people of different nationalities, languages, and cultures.
If every Christian on the planet "got" this truth that Christ unites us despite our cultures, race, language, colour, then we would go a long way to erradicating racism!
But even though I discovered this truth around two decades ago, I have lived most of my life with a "If it's in my backyard then I care" mentality. But I suspect I'm not the only one. Indeed, so common is this thinking that we often fail to recognise it - especially in our Media reporting. For example, a few years ago (1999) several Indian Christian workers were killed in Northern India by hostile Hindus and there was little to no mention of it in the media. Within a week or so of this massacre, Graham Stains (an Australian missionary) and two of his children were similarly killed and yet their deaths were the subject of worldwide media attention. We all tend to put our own 'kind' first.
This doesn't mean that we don't care about our own city. We do. We love our city. We love the people of our city. We want to see our city saved. We want to see lost people coming to know Christ and we want to be able to glorify Christ by building a growing church for His glory. We want to leave a legacy of many, many, new Christians and on-fire mature Christians for God's glory. Along the way we want to reach out to our city with events that you can invite them to so that they will hear the Gospel and come to know that Christianity is worth thinking about. As we go we want to demonstrate the truth of the life-changing Gospel by living pure, holy, changing, God-glorifying lives. For some people though, all of this must happen before we get involved in reaching out to people beyond our own borders. But if we understand God's heart for all people and the nature of His Kingdom (which transcends nationality, race, religion, skin colour) then our new nature causes us to feel compassion for the Gospel-poor people of the whole world without neglecting those in our own household, neighbourhood or city.
Yesterday I sat down and read a book which discusses some of these things. It is the story of Jossy Chacko. I would strongly enourage everyone to order their own copy of this book. It is one of the most inspiring books I've ever read. It will stir your faith, encourage your heart, and amaze you. By the way, it's all based on true stories. Do yourself and your walk with Christ a favour and read this book.
It will cost you $17.95 (plus postage?)and is available from his website. If you can not afford to buy this excellent book, then I'll buy it for you (please just let me know). I would really like everyone in our church to read this book.
May God help us to be passionate about first things: (i) Preaching the Gospel - 1Cor. 15:3; (ii) Seeking His Kingdom - Matt. 6:33; and (iii) Loving God and others - Matt. 22:38. May all of this be done without getting the world's firsts confused with God's.
Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.