Traveling in Mixed Groups
David Ellis - Pastor, Astoria Community Church, Astoria, NY
Once in the late 1980's, I traveled with a group of church workers from New York City to attend a Christian conference in Detroit. The route we followed, after crowding into an old Ford van, took us across the U.S. border into Canada, along a highway through southern Ontario, and back across the border into Michigan.
At the border crossing into Michigan we ran into a problem. The guard looked into our van and immediately sensed that something was wrong. When he asked for our passports, his suspicions were confirmed. In the van were two Dominicans, two Puerto Ricans, four white Americans and one Honduran. Some were men; some were women. Some were older; some were rather young. Our skin colors ranged from beautiful brown to milky white. With years of experience observing truck drivers and vacationing families, the border guard knew that something just wasn't right. Groups this diverse don't usually travel together. What was going on? The suspicious look on his face told us we were in for a long, humiliating inspection.
Then our driver mentioned, "We are going to Detroit to attend a church meeting." Instantly the guards expression changed, and he waved us on with a smile.
I have no idea whether or not that inspector was a Christian. But he seems to have been aware of something that Christians should never forget. Followers of Jesus are supposed to be traveling in mixed groups. It is to be expected. It is not unusual at all.
When Christ established his church, it was never his intention for everyone in it to look, think and sound the same. He sent us to "make disciples of all nations." He told us that if we "greet only [our] brothers," the gospel hasn't really changed our lives. His word informs us that in his kingdom, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for [we] are all one in Christ." It warns us not to design worship services that cater to the rich and educated yet make the poor feel left out. It promises us that one day we will stand around his throne "in a great multitude that no one [can] count from every nation, from all tribes and peoples an languages." (Matt. 28:19; Matt. 5:47; Gal 3:28; James 2:1-7; Rev. 7:9).
In the eyes of the world, if all the passengers in a van don't look the same, something may not be right. But in the eyes of the Lord, if all the worshipers in a pew do look the same, something is horribly wrong. It is to our Savior's glory for his church to include people of different generations, diverse ethnicities, distinct accents, wide-ranging socio-economic backgrounds and opposing political groups. Anything short of this fails to demonstrate the power of the gospel to transform human lives.
Of course traveling in a mixed group requires some sacrifice on our part. It means sharing the front seat with fellow passengers and taking our turn in the back. It means pulling over when someone else needs a rest stop, even though we would prefer to drive on. It means that we don't always get to choose what's playing on the radio. In other words, it requires us to put the interests of others ahead of our own. It requires us to love. But for those who know Jesus, loving is not a burden. For, as he has shown us, love is the glory of Christ.
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