We live in a divided society. We are reminded of that every night on the news. Our newspapers and magazines are full of photos of protests, riots, shootings, and violence. Race divides us. Politics divides. Economics divides us. We are a fractured people. We mourn the division, and we all probably wonder if there is any hope for unity. Can we ever truly and peacefully come together?
Recently I saw a bright shining image of hope. One of the great privileges in working at Advancing Native Missions is our times of fellowship and worship together. In many ways the climax of each week occurs on Thursday mornings in our community Bible study. Every Thursday we gather in our meeting room. We greet newcomers. We sing worshipful praises to God. We pray for special needs. Then we hear a lesson from God’s word. This is usually presented by an ANM staff member. (We are blessed with many able Bible teachers.) This is often followed by another speaker. This may be a visiting native missionary. It may be the testimony of someone in our community. Sometimes it is an inspirational message from a local pastor. Or it may be a report of an ANM team that has traveled overseas. For about two hours each Thursday we are lifted into heavenly realms and we sit at the feet of the Master, as the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts through the servants of God. What a blessedly wonderful time!
This past Thursday was no exception. We were joined by two sister ministries who focus on indigenous missions. There was a group of about a dozen people from Christian Aid Mission. Also, the leader of Global Opportunities for Christ was with us. Our own Mindy Spurrier led us in a heart-touching time of worship, ushering us into the very throne room of God. George Ainsworth, ANM’s Desk Director for Europe, shared a message on missions as an integral part of the church’s identity in God’s sight. The pastor of a newly founded local church shared lessons to be learned from the life of Hudson Taylor, that great missionary to China from a century ago. Then a brother from the Middle East shared about the amazing works of God happening in the Muslim world. The Gospel is advancing in Islamic lands and tens of thousands of Muslims are coming to the Lord on a regular basis. Oppressive regimes, persecution, Sharia law and jihad—none of these can stop what God is doing. What an uplifting and inspiring word of encouragement from a frontline warrior for Christ.
At the close of the meeting, one of the leaders from Christian Aid was asked to share a few thoughts, and then pray the benediction. As this fellow-servant of the Lord was praying, I was struck by what I was experiencing. I was standing in the midst of probably 80 people. There were people there from such a diversity of church backgrounds—Presbyterian, Baptist (of several varieties), Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Calvinist and Arminian, Denominational and Non-denominational. There we were, all together, with no animosity, no divisiveness, no controversy. United in Christ, loving one another. In addition to the assortment of Christian groups present, there were those three different Christian ministries represented—Christian Aid, Global Opportunities, and ANM. Guess what? There was no jockeying for position, or rivalry over donors. We stood together as fellow-laborers in the great harvest-vineyard of our King. We stood together in support and encouragement for what each ministry is doing to reach the world with the Gospel. Not only were different churches and different ministries present, but there were people from such different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Present in that meeting were people from India, the Philippines, China, Ethiopia, Armenia, and several countries in the Middle East. Hispanics, African-Americans, Italian Americans, German-Americans, Irish-Americans, Anglo-Americans, native born and naturalized citizens were all represented in that assembly. Yet, there was not a hint of discrimination, hatred or malice. There was only love, peace, harmony, and unity. It was wonderful. I thought to myself, this is a microcosm of heaven. This is a small glimpse of what it will be like when everyone who is part of the universal, triumphant Church of Jesus Christ stands together around the throne of God.
It is this vision of the unity of the Body of Christ that gives me hope in this divided, hurting, and wounded world. What is the solution to social injustice and societal unrest? What can end racial divides and ethnic hatred? What can replace terrorism with peace? There is only one thing—no, one Person. That is Jesus. Human effort and man-made institutions won’t do it. Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t work (and work hard) at rectifying the ills of our world. But ultimately, true peace and unity can only be found in Christ. We are one at the foot of the Cross. We are united around His throne. It is only His blood, His love, and His Spirit that can truly make us one. The solution is to proclaim the Good News, and do all we can to change the hearts of men. For it is only when individual hearts are transformed by the power of the Gospel that communities, societies, and nations are changed. So we labor and preach and love to this end.
And we pray. We pray for peace. We pray for justice. We pray for an end to the ills of the world. And we pray for His coming. We pray this because we recognize that it is only in the ending of this world system, when Christ consummates and eternally establishes the fullness of His Kingdom that everything finally will be made right. Then there will be perfect unity, fullness of love and an abundance of peace. No wonder John the Apostle fervently prayed, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10).