Lessons from a Multi-Cultural Manger Scene
One of our favorite traditions in our house is to set up our nativity set. I have three daughters and have delegated the task to them over the years. Because the set is virtually indestructible, we have allowed them to do this from a young age, although there are some teeth marks in the figures. One year I heard my wife say, “Elizabeth, take baby Jesus out of your mouth right now!”
You also never know who else may show up in the display. I have seen Lego people, Disney figurines, My Little Ponies, Minions, as well as other toys and creatures drop by to hang out with Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. Judging by our nativity set over the years, it looks like all of our toys got an invitation to join the party.
And that is how it should be. It reminds me of what the angels said when they first announced Jesus’s birth to the shepherds: “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
Thank God that Jesus came for “all people”, not just the people who look like us, talk like us, act like us, or vote like us. He came for everyone and everyone should get an invitation to join the family of God.
And I am grateful for that because I am very different from those Middle Easterners who were at the first nativity, in culture, appearance, language, and a host of other ways.
And the same God who reached out to me and you wants us to widen our spheres of influence to reach those who are different.
Wondering how to expand your witness? Here are a few suggestions.
- Learn from Scripture. Scripture is full of “best practices” regarding reaching and “doing life” with those who are different than you. Read the gospels afresh paying attention to how Jesus broke through racial and cultural barriers. Study Acts noting how the Holy Spirit led the apostles to bridge into other cultures to bring people together through the gospel. We can learn a lot from their teaching and example.
- Realize that a multi-ethnic witness flows from a multi-ethnic life. Are all of your relationships with people who are like you? Take the first step and ask the Lord to expand your witness and ministry opportunities by expanding your relationships to those who are different. How? By simply choosing to “do life” with people different from you. Looking at joining a civic group, book club, sports league? Want to hang out at a coffee shop or go out to eat? Try places and join groups where other races and cultures are represented. The big idea is meet and befriend those who are different than you in whatever way you typically socialize. This will provide you with a seedbed of opportunities to tell them about Jesus.
- Confront the barriers. Realize that expanding your witness to people different from you will require you getting out of your groove and comfort zone. It will also confront your thoughts and attitudes that you may not realize you had. If you find yourself reacting or thinking a certain way based on their appearance, ask yourself “why?” You may find that your reaction is based on fear, a generalization/stereotype, or a lie that you believe. Confront your own thoughts with the truths of scripture and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
This also applies to your church. If we are called to reach all people with the gospel, are all people welcome in our churches? Before you quickly answer that with, “Yes, of course”, think hard about it. If a person of a different race came to your church, would they be treated any differently than someone who looks like you? Let me go further. If a couple came to your church who were from two different races, would they be warmly welcomed and assimilated? If not, why not?
- Study. Study the perspectives of others. Put yourself in their shoes. How might they see the world, the Lord, church, etc. differently than you do? Read books, social media posts, and news from a variety of sources. Go on a short-term mission trip, take a class, and/or visit a church where you are the minority. These will help you see the world from the eyes of others and enable you to understand, love, and communicate in a greater way. Perhaps God has something to teach you that can only come from someone with a different perspective.
- Abide in Christ. As Acts proves, overcoming social barriers requires the power of the Holy Spirit. Depend on Him to help you see people from God’s perspective and reflect His love to them, a love that overcomes and breaks down the barriers that divide. We should not have to wait until heaven to experience the unity and diversity found in Revelation 7:9-10. May His kingdom come and will be done here and now as it is in heaven:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:9-10
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