Tribalism; April 4, 2020

John 10:16 “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

It is deeply meaningful that when Jesus was talking about being the Good Shepherd He specifically talked about Gentile believers as well as Jewish believers. Up until this point, despite the many prophecies of Isaiah and others, the vast majority of Jews could not imagine the promises of God applying to anyone other than the physical descendants of Abraham. Actually, the majority of Jews today are that way, and some Gentiles have flipped that around with “Replacement Theology” and insist the Jews have lost their place in God’s plan. All of that is wrong from every angle! The further back in history you go, the more you encounter “tribal theology,” with each group having their own god or gods. Sadly, tribalism is still very much alive today, and we see the results everywhere. Different groups are different, and independent nations are important, but when we deny the humanity of the “other,” we are denying our Creator and inviting destruction on ourselves. I have quoted verse 10 of this chapter more times than I could count, and denying the humanity of our opposition is a powerful tool of the “thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” We cannot stand against him unless we recognize his tricks and refuse to participate in them. He is smarter than we are, but we serve the God who is smarter than everyone and everything else, and if we are submitted to Him, He will guide us correctly. As James said, it is when we are submitted to God that we are able to resist the devil and have him flee from us. (James 3:7)

This naturally applies to me, as it does to everyone. Growing up as a Caucasian in Japan, I am very aware of tribalism! However, I know a God who is big enough to overcome all of that, and I rejoice in that knowledge. And since I know Him, I seek to introduce Him to everyone around me, whatever their “tribe” might be. National and racial distinctives are part of God’s love for variety that is so evident in nature. However, when we allow those distinctives to divide us, rather than enrich us, we are being deceived by the devil and are allowing him to steal all sorts of blessings from us. When Jesus laid down His life, as He talks about immediately after this verse, He didn’t do it just for one “tribe” but for all mankind. That’s why John 3:16 says God loves “the world,” and “whoever” believes in the Son will be saved. Revelation 5:9 and 14:6 make it very clear that God’s salvation is for “every tribe and language and people and nation.” The Family of God supersedes every distinction!

Father, I see so much division for the sake of division, and as much as it grieves me, I know it grieves You more. I pray that indeed Your kingdom would come and Your will be done, uniting all Your children in Christ. That will be glorious indeed!

About jgarrott

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