Jesus unites his followers across cultural and ethnic lines as members of his global family. But that doesn’t mean cultural differences disappear. In fact, Jesus resurrects and glorifies what is unique and beautiful about every culture. In this episode, listen in as Tim and Jon discuss what it means to be part of the family of God.
At its very essence, the Bible is saying that what God is doing in the story of humanity is unifying diverse nations into one new humanity—but not in a way that erases or marginalizes any one culture’s differences, but actually in a way that honors and resurrects and glorifies what is unique and beautiful about every human and culture.
In part one (0:00–22:30), Tim and Jon begin discussion for a new theme video, Family of God. This theme examines the story that has caused Christianity to become the most ethnically diverse religious movement in human history.
Tim shares two stories from the time he lived in Israel. First, he shared about visiting the Church of the Pater Noster, a 4th century chapel on the Mount of Olives that displays the Lord’s Prayer in 100 different languages on the courtyard walls. This moment impacted Tim because it showed him how much he had in common with people all over the world.
Second, Tim shares about the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. This church features hundreds of pictures of Mary and Jesus portrayed in the traditional dress and art style of each culture. This display helped Tim to see how the message of Jesus has personally impacted every culture of the world.
In his search for more, Tim encountered the writings of Philip Jenkins, who has written extensively about the global nature of the Church. Tim shares a pair of quotes.
“In the world today, there are approximately two billion Christians. Of those, the largest contingent, about 530 million, live in Europe. Close behind is Latin America, with 510 million; Africa has about 390 million; and Asia has about 300 million. However, if we project that film forward into the future, the numbers change quite rapidly. By 2025, the title for the “most Christian” continent—the continent with the largest number of Christians—will be in competition between Africa and Latin America… If we move further into the future, however, there is no doubt that by about 2050, Africa will win. In terms of population distribution, Christianity will be chiefly a religion of Africa and the African diaspora, which will, in a sense, be the heartland of Christianity.” –– Philip Jenkins, The New Faces of Christianity
“As Christianity moves to the global South, Christianity is also entering a world that is a very poor world. If you want to think of the average Christian in the world today, then think of, perhaps, a woman living in a village in Nigeria or in a favela (a shantytown in Brazil)—probably somebody who, by typical American standards, is inconceivably poor.” –– Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom
In part two (22:30–32:00), Tim and Jon discuss how sharing a love for Jesus is the greatest possible unifier among people from diverse backgrounds.
Jon shares from a tweet that states that Christians have more in common with someone who is “inconceivably poor” on the other side of the world and believes in Jesus than with someone from their own location, economic status, and political party who do not believe in Jesus.
The Jesus movement is unique as the most culturally and ethnically diverse people movement in the history of the human race. The story of Jesus speaks to every kind of human and can be reexpressed in innumerable cultural forms. No other religious movement matches the adaptability of the story of Jesus.
And Tim argues this is by design. The biblical story shows us that God is actively working throughout the biblical story to unite all nations together while still retaining and resurrecting the unique and beautiful aspects of each culture.
Jon shares that a lot of people are scared today of globalism, so to say that the Bible has a global vision might not sit well with a lot of people. Tim agrees that Babylon is the icon for the unification of a false new humanity. “The question,” Tim says, “is not whether humans want to unify or think they should be unified. The question is what is the story driving that unity? One leads to Babylon. The other leads to the New Jerusalem.”
In part three (32:00–43:15), Tim and Jon look at the first of two passages that highlight this theme.
For I say that the Messiah has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of God’s faithfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and so that the nations would glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, “Therefore I will give praise to you among the Gentiles, and I will sing to your name.” [2 Samuel 22:50, Former Prophets] Again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” [Deuteronomy 32:43, Torah] And again, “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him.” [Psalm 117:1, Writings] Again Isaiah says, “There shall come the root of Jesse, and he who arises to rule over the Gentiles, in him shall the Gentiles hope.” [Isaiah 11:10, Latter Prophets] Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you all will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Tim shares a few insights. The Greek word for Gentiles in this passage is ethnos, meaning a family bloodline. The word gentile uses the same root as the word “genes.” Tim also points out that Paul backs up his two claims by quoting from the four parts of the TaNaK, showing how the nations will share in the identity of God’s people.
In part four (43:15–end), the team talks through what it means for various cultural identities to share the identity of God’s people.
Jon asks whether the nations who are united with Jesus retain or lose their cultural identity as nations. He mentions a passage at the end of The Revelation that talks about the nations that come into the city.
Tim says that Revelation has a formula, “every nation, tribe, people, and tongue,” that appears in one form or another ten times throughout the book. The first time appears in Revelation 5:9-10.
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
These people from all nations have been made into one Kingdom by Jesus. “Nations” also appears in Revelation 21:24, 26 and 22:2.
And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illuminated it, and its lamp is the lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.
Tim says this passage shows that the new humanity retains its identity as the human family that has expanded and grown. The many are reconciled as a unified yet diverse whole that is called the body of the lamb. Our humanity cannot be fully realized without understanding, appreciating, and being connected to the identity of every other culture. The family of God as a unified yet diverse whole is core to the biblical story and has immense potential for followers of Jesus today.
Show produced by Dan Gummel. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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