Differences; January 12, 2019

Revelation 7:9 After this 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 in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

I don’t see how any true believer could read from this verse through the end of the chapter without wanting to shout, hallelujah! Verses 10 and 12 have been wonderfully set to music, and can be powerful indeed in corporate worship. The comforting message of verses 15-17 is marvelous indeed. However, it is this verse that is the greatest joy to anyone with a heart for world missions, because it says that no people-group will be left out of heaven. We are so prone to what is currently being called “identity politics,” creating groups in exclusion of each other, largely so that we can feel superior about our group, however we define it. Some separate by race, others by income level, and recently a lot of fuss is made about gender. On top of that we add political affiliation and even more factors, and we get the mess that we see today. It’s not that there are no differences among people, it’s that we see different distinctions than God does. In His eyes, the only differences that count are faith and obedience. Paul put it very clearly: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) It has been said that 11 AM on a Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, but that is certainly not God’s vision of the Church. It is not wrong to worship in what could be called “kinship groups” of various sorts, but we must not stop there. Every group brings its own flavor, its own gifts, before the throne of God. The important point is focusing on Christ in worship in Spirit and in truth. If we will do that, everything else will fall into place.

Growing up as a Caucasian in Japan, not to mention as a missionary kid attending a US military dependents school, I have been aware of differences all my life. I have been most blessed when those differences have evaporated in genuine worship. The closest I have come to heaven on this earth was in a small prayer meeting of four men: a German Jesuit priest, an American Augustinian friar, a Japanese Pentecostal pastor, and myself. We had been singing to the Lord, in Japanese as I recall, and the level of joy in me rose to the point that, in my heart, I literally told the Lord He would have to back off if He had any more work for me to do on earth, because my body couldn’t take any more joy! That is how I imagine this scene before the Throne, because there we won’t have any physical limitations to the joy of worship and communion with our Lord. I have loved fellowship with believers of all descriptions. When I preached in a Black church in Ohio, I didn’t want to stop! People of many national backgrounds have been members of this church over the years. God made each one of us unique, but I have learned that is to teach us the difference between unity and uniformity. We are to delight in our differences, supporting one another, because we have unity in Christ.

Father, thank You for all You have taught me about this over the years. Thank You for the assurance that some, even many, of those to whom I have ministered will join me before Your throne. Help me be increasingly effective in adding to that number for as long as You keep me here, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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