In this third session we look at the Church and how there are barriers and divides between the social classes within it. We also look at God’s vision for what the church should look like, united through our diversity.
The purpose of highlighting our differences is not to entrench them, but to reveal them so that we can move towards each other. If we don’t understand that someone else’s experience of money or community or authority or faith might be very different from ours, it won’t take long before we accidentally alienate or even clash with those around us. By shining a light on some key areas of difference, our aim has been to equip majority-middle-class churches (leaders and members) to see blind spots and possibly even prejudices that might be making others feel that they don’t fit in. This is the first step in understanding some of these different ways of thinking and acting, so that we can be active in demonstrating greater acceptance and valuing of people who are looking in on or who are part of our churches, but who are not included in, or comfortable with, the dominant culture.
Normal middle-class behaviour is not the same as Christian behaviour. Neither is typical working-class behaviour the same as Christian behaviour. Jesus transcends all divisions, calling us to something far more radical. We need to be able to decipher between the norms of the dominant culture and what is actually biblical, Christlike behaviour, so that we don’t push people in our churches to conform to the standards of the majority, but rather only to what we see in Jesus. Taking the time to think these things through, then to change any of our attitudes that we recognize need to change, will create a more accessible culture in our churches.
The Bible tells us that in the end every tribe, nation, and tongue – no matter what background, social class, ethnicity, or race will be unified in worshipping Jesus. This is the glorious future that awaits us. As the church we get to have a foretaste of this now.
Ephesians 2: 13-16 (below) tells us that when Jesus died, he brought down the dividing wall of hostility and one day that wall will be completely removed.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
For now, the Church, in an attempt on bringing heaven to earth, has an opportunity to help to bring down any walls of exclusion, inequality, and persecution.
God embraces difference – he doesn’t want us to be carbon copies of each other. Unity, where everyone is the same is not hard to achieve! It’s when there is a coming together, even when there is diversity, that unity is astonishing. What a great witness to the watching world would it be if the Chruch could do this well. We are called to have breath-taking unity to demonstrate a loving God who practices forgiveness and grace. At the end of the age our diversity will not be wiped away, only our divisions will.
Walls can be put up to protect ourselves and to define who we are – who our tribe is and how we do things. But God is calling us to lay down some of our ‘ways’, rights and comfort and follow His way so that those in the minority amongst us can feel included.
There is a challenge for us as the Church and individuals to question ourselves and ask what traditions and expectations we are willing to let go of? Can we let God highlight areas in our lives where we can do something differently, even if it is outside of our comfort zone. The way we can overcome being uncomfortable is to ask questions, to get to know how other people think and why they think like that. Now is the time for us to cross these invisible divides so that we might have a greater unity within our diversity and point people to our God.
Our primary identity is that we are all children of God, and this should come above all things in our lives.