Pastor Dr. John K. Mathew
“An ethnic group or ethnicity is a popular group whose members identify with each other on the basis of common nationality or a shared cultural tradition”.
Ethnicity refers to cultural factors,including nationality, regional culture, ancestry and language. Race, however refers to a person’s physical characteristics, such as bone structure and skin,hair or eye color.
The world in which we live is an ethnological museum. There is diversity in language, culture, belief, fashion and life altogether. “Unity in diversity is a popular slogan in India. How can we achieve true unity in diversity? The only answer is in the Bible. Jesus sent his followers to make disciples of all the nations or peoples of the world. As John takes us to the throne room of heaven, we see the fulfilment of Jesus’ mandate. It reads, “After I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God,who sits on the throne, and the Lamb.” (Rev.7:9,10).
It is the responsibility of each one of us to bring our neighbor to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.Only upon breaking barriers we can achieve that goal.Unfortunately,often time we become so ethnocentric. What is ethnocentrism? It is not only the false assumptions we make about others based on our own limited experience but also maintains the view that our ways are the best. Peter was limited by this false assumption. A major breakthrough in race relations is described in Acts 10. For years a virtual wall between Jews and Gentiles had hampered the Apostles in sharing Jesus with the gentile world. The book,”The Ultimate A to Z Resource”, suggests, “But when Peter met Cornelius – an officer of Roman occupation troops in Palestine, two conversions took place: Cornelius,his family,and his friends came to faith; and Peter came to realise that God wants Gentiles in the church.”
In the Indian churches, there are people form a wide variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. It is unfortunate and sad to see that the Indian churches drastically fail to identify with the poor and downtrodden. A radical change in our attitude is required from heaven!
The Antioch church is a model for what God’s people ought to be and do. Like most cities today, Antioch was racially diverse and culturally pluralistic. As a result when the scattered believers arrived they had to wrestle with how to make the gospel meaningful for the diverse groups.
According to Ken Anderson, four factors help to account for their success. First of all they saw ethnic division as a barrier to overcome rather than a status quo to be maintained. Secondly, they have developed multi-ethnic leadership.The church employed and deployed pastors, teachers and evangelists who reflected the composition of the community. Thirdly, they sent out ministry teams. Just as the church at Antioch had been established by believers from Jerusalem, it, too, sent out ministry teams to tell the story of Jesus. Finally,they joined together to accomplish projects of compassion.
Overall,Antioch became the model for how the church ought to function when surrounded by diversity and cultural pluralism.God’s family has no place for prejudice.If we change our attitude,we would see God change our churches and begin to transform our culture.