Written by Brittany McFadden
In the beginning of October, folks from various Redemption congregations joined with brothers and sisters at Church of the Remnant in South Phoenix to participate in a multi-ethnic worship service for the sake of learning how to better love one’s neighbor in cross-cultural contexts.
Remnant South Phoenix, led by Warren Stewart, Jr., is a multi-ethnic church that is intentional about intercultural and intergenerational relationships, and “celebrating unity in diversity”
In the current cultural atmosphere we hear a lot about the need for diversity as we see hatred, fear and racism devouring communities. In the midst of the fear and uncertainty, the church has a great opportunity to be salt and light as a contrast community that loves well amid cultural differences, whether of ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status, or education. But unless we learn how to love cross-culturally and intentionally pursue relationships with those not like us, we won’t get there.
The book of Revelation lets us know the beauty of where all of history is moving and that we are to be a foretaste of that coming reality, of that City of God wherein all the nations will be together to celebrate, feast and worship in all the beauty of created diversity and sovereignly intended unity. As Pastor Stewart pointed out, we might as well start practicing for eternity now.
Pastor Stewart opened in 1 Corinthians 12. We are one body. “We must ask God what he desires our church to look like,” he says. “There are many cultures of the church, but there is only one Church. We come together to learn, celebrate and end the day as family…It’s never us and them in the body of Christ. It’s just us.”
Against the division in the world around us, this divine ordering of diverse parts arrange together as one and fellowshipping in unity declares the counter-cultural ethos of the kingdom of God and the power of God to bring together a unique community. Ephesians 2 tells us that in Jesus the hostility is demolished and we who are different have been formed into one.
Over a shared meal sprinkled with laughter and making new friends, folks at the gathering discussed why as disciples of Jesus is diversity so hard. What are the barriers to unity?
A member of Remnant shared that we have to be brave enough to say “I don’t know about your experience but I want to know.” For some, it takes vulnerability to say “I don’t know.” For others it will require vulnerability to share one’s experience and help others understand.
Others shared how they had made intentional steps to reach across cultural divisions to love their cross-cultural neighbors, particularly those most marginalized. They reminded us that Jesus sets the example of leaving what is comfortable to be with those he sought to love. Stepping outside of what is familiar is often uncomfortable; it may even feel scary. It will require walking against the currents in our culture, being willing to listen to hard experiences, and recognizing the rhetoric that has shaped us and even our church more than the biblical story. But as every person who shared their experience during the gathering will affirm, it’s totally worth it: “We know more of life because we do life together – it makes life richer”
This is how we come to know “Our Father who is in Heaven.” The very thing that makes us a community is Our Father who through Jesus by the power of the Spirit is evidencing a glimpse of the hope to come through his church displaying the Kingdom. Our lives together now are meant to be a foretaste of the fullness of the kingdom to come. Opposed to the parasitical racism and division within the culture at large, the church is where the world ought to get a peek at the future City of God full of beautiful diversity – every language, nation and tribe – gathered together, as one.
Ways to love cross-culturally:
- It’s all about relationships. Be authentically you and build authentic relationships. Hang out with people who have had a different experience than you. We have much to learn.
- Eat together. Look at who sits around your dinner table. Consider who you can invite to the table to give a clearer picture of the Kingdom of God by welcoming those who are different from you.
- We show the kingdom better together. Look for ways to partner with followers of Jesus from different cultures and join in with what God is doing through his whole Church.
- Bless one another. Look for ways to engage and bless your cross-cultural neighbors.
- Look for opportunities to engage in different cultural expressions of worship and community.
- Watch Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13 This elucidating film examines racial inequality, mass incarceration and systemic injustice within the American story. To love well we must listen to and learn from our neighbors, so gather some folks together to view and discuss the film.
“Love people who don’t look like you. Why? Because the gospel did that for you. Therefore let the mind of Christ be in you to pursue people who don’t look like you.” – Warren Stewart, Jr.