Joyful Oneness in the Midst of Deep Diversity
2 Chronicles 29-30 tells the story of one of the great renewals/revivals in ancient Israel. People move from burning their children as sacrifices to the gods to renewing the worship of Yahweh. The entire story is one that invites us to allow God to continue this great story in our lives and in our fellowship.
In this post, I want to focus on just one of the marvelous moments recorded in 2 Chronicles 30:
“25The whole assembly of Judah, the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the resident aliens who came out of the land of Israel, and the resident aliens who lived in Judah, rejoiced. 26There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon son of King David of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. 27Then the priests and the Levites stood up and blessed the people, and their voice was heard; their prayer came to his holy dwelling in heaven.”
It is difficult for us to imagine the level of diversity and polarization represented in these verses, and the amazing work of God that it took to trump these divisions. Judah and Israel had been deeply divided both politically and theologically for many years. And resident aliens (non-citizen immigrants) are always kept at a distance by various lines and boundaries in every society, not to mention that this account gives us two different groups of resident aliens who would not at all see things the same. Nevertheless, in response to God’s gracious renewal, joyful oneness reigns in the midst of this startling diversity! The leaders bless everyone equally, and God definitively LISTENS and HEARS such prayers and blessings.I have been reading a couple of books recently: THE BIG TURN by Bill Bishop and SEARCHING FOR WHITOPIA by Rich Benjamin. I have not finished Bishop’s book yet though I have read enough to find it powerfully challenging and deeply troubling. I have finished Benjamin’s book which has a similar though more limited focus.
Bishop’s book is a look at the census data of the past three decades. What he finds is that since 1976, the USA has seen a huge reversal of trends in terms of where Americans choose to live and spend time. For more than 3 decades now, the very clear trend has been toward living and hanging out with “people like me.” People who look like me, spend like me, vote like me, relate to church like me, watch the TV news channels like me, listen to the Talk Radio like me, and think like me in general, has been the dominant factor in the relocation of the American population for the past 35 years.
Bishop argues that this trend is now becoming the major reality in the growing polarization of Americans. It is easy to be sure you are right about things, and to think that those who disagree are either stupid or evil, if everyone you hang out with agrees with you and acts like you. The author points out that this trend is deeply impacting the decisions of people on both the political, social, and theological right and left. He also notes that it has become the way most people are now choosing their church.
My guess is, if you read Bishop’s book, you might, as I did, find yourself reflecting on some of the hurts and explosions in the life of New Covenant over the past decade, and perhaps also thinking about just how counter to the current culture our message of “oneness in diversity through the grace of Jesus” is becoming. However “counter-cultural” that calling was in the late 1970’s when New Covenant began, it is many times more so right now. Fewer and fewer people are finding it worth the cost to their personal comfort to live and function in highly diverse situations.
What does this mean for how we approach the future as a fellowship? I’d love to hear your thoughts and prayers around this critical topic.