Together with students across Ireland, I’ve watched appalled at recent news reports. The death of George Floyd has rightly galvanised protests calling for change: for true equality and dignity for all peoples, whatever their background. I lament that there even need to be marches for what should be basic, foundational and self–evident.
But I find it easier to point the finger at Bad Stuff Other People Do, than admit to our own hearts’ blind spots.
Unity in diversity is a core value of CUI and every CU. But ironically, we often define it too narrowly. We’re thinking theologically. But not theologically enough. We’re not thinking of social class or gender. Or race.
Mostly in CUs we’re striving for unity, theologically. We’re looking to unite every Christian student on campus around the gospel for the sake of mission. “We’re only as narrow as the gospel demands,” we say. “But as broad as the gospel permits.” And that’s good. We choose not to fall out over secondary issues so that we can hold out Christ crucified to everyone.
But we often do that from mono–cultural castles.
In the earliest chapters of Genesis we find the creation of the nations. And that is a Good Thing. Reading genealogies may not be your idea of a bedtime story, but in them we find our who is the father of the Jebusites or the Arkites or the Girgashites. And we wouldn’t know that unless God knew, and noticed, and recorded it for us.
God values nations. And God values ethnicity. They are such a Good Thing that they will last forever.
When we come to the last chapters of the Bible, we find every tribe and nation and people and language praising the Lamb. And they’re not blended together, like a smoothie. In a smoothie, you can no longer tell which bit is mango and which bit is banana. They’re all mashed into goo. But in the new creation – and repeated at least five times in the book of Revelation – you can still hear the voices of every tribe and nation and people and language.
Ethnicity is such a Good Thing in God’s eyes that it will last forever. Our different cultures will be a core ingredient of glorifying the Lamb for all time. And that rich variety will be core to the beauty of Christ’s bride. She will not be complete or whole until every ethnic group is represented. Why? Because that is what her groom deserves.
When an orchestra or a band plays in unison, it might be very loud. But it’s a bit boring. The notes sound thin. But when every instrument plays in harmony, in the same key, there’s a richness and depth that can take the roof off.
Jesus is worthy of the praise of every culture that ever was, through every century there ever will be. Because when every people and language from every tribe and nation across all the millennia confess the Jesus is the lamb who was slain for them, he receives more glory and honour and praise than if just people–like–me worship him.
His beauty and glory and worth are magnified when it is not just English–speaking Westerners who honour him, but when everyone everywhere finds him worthy of everything. The gospel demands that variety because Jesus deserves that glory.
And throughout eternity, there is only one Saviour and only one bride. And all who turn to Christ are equally loved, equally saved, equally united to him, equally his bride. There is no favoured nation status. The ground is level at the cross.
And so the goodness of the gospel is that it humbles me. Jesus doesn’t have favourites. I don’t deserve his grace more than anyone else. Not my religious performance, my denominational soundness, my gender, class, heritage, or race. And the goodness of the gospel is that it exalts me. Jesus doesn’t have favourites. I am as loved in him as every sinner he bled for.
And so the goodness of the gospel is that everyone in Christ has humble dignity. Equally. Every one of us made in the image of God. Every one of us depends on him for our next breath. And every one of us in Christ, needs everyone else to help us know him better and enjoy him and glorify him forever.
And as the moon reflects the sun, we in CUs have an opportunity to reflect something of the almost unbearable goodness of the gospel and of our future hope. That won’t come easily. Our hearts are turned inward and we need to repent. The evil one will want to set us against each other. But we need to strive for unity in diversity.
Yes, around the gospel theologically. But also around the gospel, racially. So that Jesus is exalted and all peoples everywhere on every campus will find him to be their most precious treasure.