I grew up in a small town where everyone pretty much ate the same types of food, listened to the same style of music, dressed the same, and more or less looked the same.
I thought that everyone in the world ate sausage and sauerkraut, and sang “0 Tannenbaum” at Christmas time. My closest cross-cultural encounter was when a Finnish girl kissed me on the cheek in first grade.
While I still appreciate and enjoy small town life, my world has expanded quite a bit since then. Although I was deprived of the common burrito when I was growing up, I now consider it a staple right up there with sauerkraut. I also enjoy a long list of other ethnic foods that tantalize my taste buds and enrich my diet.
More importantly, my world has opened up in other ways. I now have friends who are African American, Latino, and other ethnicities. They have added so much to my life with their different viewpoints, experiences, and cultural backgrounds. I am greatly enriched by them.
We have had the occasional disagreements and misunderstandings, but the bond that holds our friendships together is our common faith and love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Book of Revelations, chapter 7, describes a scene in heaven where people from every “tongue, tribe, and nation” are gathered together as one family worshiping before the throne of God. As I read that passage, one of the thoughts that comes to mind is, “If it will be that way then, why can’t it be more like that now?”
I encounter what I consider a shocking amount of racist attitudes among those who claim to be followers of Christ. My guess is that most of us (and I don’t claim a self-righteous immunity to it) don’t even recognize it in ourselves.
Below that “Minnesota nice” exterior lurks something ugly that surfaces from time-to-time. The racism that I often come across among religious people usually is not of the fanatical type more often than not, I hear oblique references or complaints about “those people.”
My Bible tells me that “God so loved the world (those people!) that He gave His only begotten Son . . . ”
I also find commands to love my neighbor (those people!) as myself, and to “go into all the world (those people!) and preach the gospel.” A simple deduction from these verses is that racism and the Gospel do not mix together at all.
Make no mistake, change is coming to central Minnesota we will be seeing a lot more of “those people.” By the year 2020, it is estimated that 22 percent of school children in Minnesota will be non-white. Are you ready for that? Is your church ready for that?
Personally, I believe that this is a wonderful opportunity for genuine followers of Christ to lead the way. God loves all people equally, no matter their age, gender, or race. In a world of hate, injustice and polarization, the church can endeavor to be a community that models respect, reconciliation, appreciation, and the love of God for all people.