Today brings us to the fourth installment in the 8 week series looking at how the Gospel influences all of our life. This week I want look at how the Gospel relates to racial relations. I do not intend to answer all the questions nor address all of the issues concerning the current miserable state of racial diversity in the church. I do want to contribute to what needs to be an ongoing conversation as to how to bridge these issues. I want to do this by sharing a story with you.
Several years ago my wife (my fiancée at that time) bought me an ESV Study Bible for Christmas. She had told me she was getting me one but I was still very excited and thankful to get it. Since we were in the middle of wedding planning and looking towards sharing our life together and later down the road starting a family I knew I wanted this to be the Bible that I not only used for the bulk of my personal study but that our family used during family devotionals. With that in my mind and since I was then working in a sales job that afforded me a lot of free time during the day I decided to combine all my notes from older Bibles. It took me several weeks but I compiled a list of every verse I had marked, noted, or underlined since high school and then transferred all of that over to my new Bible after Christmas.
Recently I replaced that Bible. The leather was starting to come apart on several places and Crossway publishers were kind and gracious to replace it free of charge for me. I decided to again transfer all of my notes over. Well as I was doing so I came across a portion of a verse that I had underlined previously and I could not really see why. I read it over and over and decided maybe I had written it down wrong so I waited till I had the time to check in my old Bible and sure enough I had underlined the passage. That time as I read the verse I remembered why. Here is that verse.
38A mixed multitude also went up with them, Exodus 12:38
Do you see the significance? Perhaps some context will help. This verse is in the middle of the passage describing the Exodus of the Hebrew people out of Egypt following the plague of the first born. The Hebrews had many other races of people going with them out of Egypt. There was diversity in this group. I love the way the HCSB and the Knox translations put this verse.
38 An ethnically diverse crowd also went up with them – HCSB
38 and with them a mingled array of other folk – Knox
Ethnically diverse. Mixed multitudes. Mingled array of folks. These are the words used to describe the group that the Hebrews attracted as they fled their oppression in Egypt to follow God into their promised land. Now something went very wrong between the Exodus and the time of Christ to take the Israelite’s from being a people running in diverse crowds to being a race sadly committed to racial purity so much that they hated Samaritans to the extent that they did not think they were deserving of air to breathe. Who were the Samaritans and why were they hated so much. They were descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh the two sons of Joseph, and possibly even some descended from Levi (that is right, the priestly tribe). You see they were Jewish, they were just from the Northern Kingdom not the Southern one, and thus not Jewish enough for the leading Jews after the repopulation of Jerusalem following the period of exile in Persia.
I want to touch on the issue of what changed, but I am going to wait until after the first of the year to do so. For now I simply want to pose a thought to you. If the people running after God at the time of the Exodus was a mixed, diverse array, why is the church after fulfillment of the Gospel not the same?