We just got our two-year-old son a new Play-Doh kit that came with an assortment of colors and little plastic tools to cut, shape, and mold clay objects. Who doesn’t love Play-Doh, right? I still like to feel it in my fingers and get a good whiff of it. I’ve even seen Kainan pretending to eat it. He puts it to his mouth and says, “Yum, yum, yum.” Play-Doh is the stuff childhood is made of.
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I like things to be orderly, in their place, and without spot or blemish. If something is out place, I sense an urgency to fix it. Maybe I’m a tad bit OCD like that. Not nearly as bad as Bill Murray in What About Bob?, but my wife says that it is noticeable.
So Kainan was recently playing with his Play-Doh. I was trying to show him a few things (you know, the proper way to play with it), but he kept insisting on smashing the colors together. He’s not color blind. Why is he doing that? Clearly he just doesn’t understand that you can never get them apart again if you mix the colors like that. I just need to show him how it works, I thought.
Well, needless to say, our toddler didn’t like me messing with his work of art. He new exactly what he was doing, and it didn’t make sense to him why I was up in his business. After a couple attempts left him in tears, I left him alone.
And then I had a thought.
Is the church failing to be as imaginative as my toddler? I don’t mean in the arts, though that is important. No, I mean when it comes to our insistence upon keeping races, ethnic groups, and cultures separate from one another.
Maybe we’re not doing it on purpose. Maybe it’s just built into us like me wanting to keep the white, black, and brown Play-Doh from mixing. I suspect we’ve been conditioned not to see a greater beauty with God’s colors.
I think the only way to correct the problem is for us first to become aware of it and then begin the process of reconditioning our thinking, reimagining beauty. You know, rethinking the multi-racial Kingdom of God.
In John’s heavenly vision as recorded in Revelation 7:9-17, John sees people from every nation, tribe, and language worshipping God in perfect unity around the throne. He learns that these people “dressed in white (pure) robes” washed clean by the blood of the Lamb are those who made it through the great tribulation on earth. They paid the ultimate price.
Let there be no doubt. There is a price to be paid.
Think about this. Everything we need to envision a multi-racial, multi-cultural Kingdom has been given to us as children. Is it any wonder that Jesus calls us to embrace the sort of faith that children exhibit (Matt 18:3)? There is much that we can learn from the perspective of the little children.
“Red and yellow, black, brown, and white… they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
That’s a powerful truth captured in a children’s song. We will never outgrow this one, folks. This is the Kingdom. This is where it’s all going, sooner or later.
It’s the oppressive, even demonic, powers of this world that teach us to group ourselves according to like kind and distance ourselves from the other. It’s time the church—the church from every nation, tribe, and language—bring John’s vision of heaven to earth. Reversing Babel is all a part of the Kingdom program.
If we want to reverse Babel, we’re gonna have to be willing to join the oppressed in the margins. Jesus lived in the margins where the mess is obvious.
Where are the margins in your community? Where is the racial segregation? Where are the cultural roadblocks to peace and harmony? Look for Jesus. He is there calling us forward to respond to injustice, and conform it to the Kingdom.
Remember this: It is Satan who scatters, but it is the God revealed in Jesus who is the holy unifying force that brings peace and harmony to our broken world. God is always against dehumanizing systems that tear apart his creation.
If Jesus lived in the margins of society, and calls us to live there too, then he is clearly saying that God lives there and it’s in those places that he creates beauty. The margins can be a womb for the Kingdom, if only our lives are planted there as gospel seeds intent on birthing new creation.
This takes courage. It means risking everything for the gospel.
Our “safe” religion is nothing more than the sanitized, sterile mechanism of infertility. It doesn’t make disciples or birth Kingdom movements. While it may be easy, comfortable, and “safe” for our churches to remain segregated on Sunday mornings, it is aborting the colorful life of the Kingdom of God.
Take it from my toddler and his Play-Doh. It’s time to mix it up.
D.D. Flowers, 2014.