Unity in Christ: Beyond race and nationality

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Before Jesus was taken up to Heaven, He told the disciples the following:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

The verse is an introduction for the book of Acts. The apostles shared Jesus in Jerusalem…then they went off to Judea and Samaria….then the book ends off in Rome. Which in their times it is the heart of the world.
We were studying this during Sunday School and Samaria caught my attention.
Samaria, in the eyes of Israel, is a dirty place with dirty people. Originally, Samaria was Israel, the Northern Kingdom in the Old Testament. Israel was invaded by the Assyrians. In order to keep the conquered nations from rebelling, Assyrians empire had a policy to export the local people out and also bring in other nationalities.
In Jesus times, Samaria was fond upon in the eyes of the Jews. The Samaritans are not pure blood Hebrews and not considered to be descendant of Abraham. Because of this, the Jews will not worship together with them. Samaritans were second class citizens.
In fact, to be called someone as a Samaritan was insulting. In John 8, the Jews accuse Jesus of:

Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed? (John 8:48)

Ouch!
When I think about Samaria, I thought of Jesus and the Samaritan lady at the well (John 4).
I thought about what the Samaritan lady said about worshipping:

Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem. (John 4:20)

AKA we, Samaritans, we worship here. You, Jews, worship there.
We see Jesus reply:
Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:21-24)
I highlighted a few words that caught my eyes. From previous Bible Studies on this passage, Jesus is saying that it doesn’t matter where you worship.
What I really want to focus is the racial relationship focus on this passage. Jesus started with talking about Samaritans and Jews. Then in the next verse He jumps into true worshipers. Who are the true worshipers? It is both. It is anyone, regardless of their background, heritage, gender, race, ethnicity.
When I re-read this passage, I got very excited.
When I look at the Old Testament and the New Testament, we see that God’s master plan was to bring all nations…
To keep this post from going too long….you can look at
  • Genesis 12:2 (Abram)
  • Genesis 35:11 (Jacob)
  • Matthew 28:18-20 (Great Commission)
  • Phillipians 2:10 (every knee should bow) [that’s really taken from Joel]
  • Revelation 7:9 (every nation)
I go to a Chinese Church. Chinese have a few dialects. The majority is Mandarian and Cantonese. My church is divided into congregations based on English, Mandarian and Cantonese.
I wasn’t raised in a Chinese Church. I only become a Christian five years ago. Speaking to a few brothers and sisters, there is a lot of negative connotation with being in a Chinese Church.
MAJOR NOTE: Please bear with me on this. This post is a reflection of what I see. I am not here to pick a fight or point fingers at who is at fault in this. I do realize that like any other human, I am limited by my own interpretation. I do not have all the facts and I am guilty on being bias and flawed. I am trying to relate what I read from the Bible, study the character of God (theology) and application.
And I also have the same frustration as well. I remember a while back telling a brother that if I ever go to another church I will never go to a Chinese church again.
I remember speaking to a sister about this. She grew up in a Chinese church and seen lots of things. She said that she would want to go to a church that is multi ethnicity.
That’s true too.
I joked that some of us, Chinese Christians, like to worship with every other race out there…except our own.
Let’s go back to the passage. Jesus say true worshippers will worship the Father in true and in spirit. He is telling the woman, some day you won’t have to worship with just your race up in the mountains. You will be able to worship with the Jews (and all other group of people too).
So when is that day? When is the day that the true worshippers, regardless of where they are from, what language they speak, what culture they are from….can come together?
That day is already here..
We see that already happening in Acts 2, right after the Pentecost:

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. (Acts 2:5-6)

And a bit afterwards:
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:41-42)
So all Jews from every nation under heaven was accepted. And this continue on. In the Great Commission that we are to make disciples to all nations….
So why am I reflecting on this….well as a church with three different languages and culture. It is tough to manage together.
Among the differences of how different culture ‘run’ things. It doesn’t matter. In fact, true worshipers worship together regardless of where they are from.
Even when I don’t like being in a Chinese Church, it really doesn’t matter. Why? Because Jesus said true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The idea of worshipping in the temple together with Samaritans are unthinking in the eyes of the Jews. Those people are dirty and half breed, I will never want to become filthy by associating with them. That’s religion.
It doesn’t matter where I am from or my heritage. Further more, it doesn’t matter if there a group I dislike them because of their values are not the same as mine.
Those who follow Christ will worship together regardless. That’s the unity.
And to be ‘effective’ evangelism, witness, outreach….well I have to see how I am worshipping…if I harbor ill feelings of my brothers or sisters because where they are from or which ethnicity they belong too….then that’s poor witnessing.
A great sign of being a Christian…is found in Acts 2. All people come together. Have fellowship, break bread, and pray. Unity in Christ.
I thank you Father for your great love of people regardless of where they are
Even when we dislike a certain group or race or religion
Like Jonah and the Assyrians
Yet Your Holy Spirit continue to work through us
And Your Kingdom continue to flourish and grow
I pray that I can be the true worshipper
To worship in True and in Spirit

Regardless of race, gender, language, or other ‘barriers’
May I continue to worship beyond race and nationality
Because those who I worship with are my brothers and my sisters.
And we are all adopted children by You.

AMEN!!!

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By Cliff

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