The Kingdom of God is not Filled with Clones

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I love lists in the Bible.  They draw me in because on the face of them, they are mind-numbing. They are the parts that when we read them, our brain yells "BORING... SKIP!!"  and we move past it to the "good part" of the story.  Exhibit A:

" Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him." (Matthew 4:25)

See what I mean?  Yet sometimes, the boring stuff[1] is filled with some fascinating information that can bring new life and new perspective to the "good part" that comes after it .  

This list (the one above from Matthew 4) is an incredible one.  It comes right before the Sermon on the Mount and it gives the reader a sense of who is in the crowd, and that "who" is pretty awesome.  Let me explain the list with another list:

  • Galilee - This was the super holy people.  These people were known for their faithfulness to the Laws God gave the people in the Old Testament.  Even if the rest of the world drifted, they were determined to stay o the narrow path of faithfulness to God.
  • The Decapolis- This is a ten city region where people mixed the God of the Bible with other Gods.  Rather than being all-out heathens, they were this sort of in-between.  Many of them considered themselves Jewish, but had no problem doing all the things their culture said were ok that were in direct opposition to the Bible.  The most faithful people wouldn’t even go there.
  • Jerusalem: Think of these people as the urban-dwelling powerful people.  Jerusalem was where the centers of both political and religious power existed. 
  • Judea:  This was the place where a large number of Jewish people lived that was not Jerusalem or Galilee.  I like to think of these people as the people we would think of as "normal people." 
  • Across the Jordan:  Now we are getting really far.  This helps us grasp that Jesus’ fame had spread a long way.

What is fascinating to me is the diversity of the people that are following Jesus.  It's all kinds of people!  Many of these groups of people don't approve of the other groups, yet they are all there, listening to Jesus.  They are all drawn by his words and his power.  Somehow Jesus transcends the divisions and brings together a group that under other circumstances would never associate with each other.  

I love this list because I know this list.  I have been in churches that are filled with all kinds of people.  I've been in rooms where there are people who think they are holy enough to deserve to be in there and those who are afraid the church might fall down because they are there.  I've been in rooms filled with people who post all about love on Facebook and people who constantly post divisive things on Facebook.  

I love those rooms because they look to me like the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is a diverse place with diverse people and diverse opinions.  But most of the churches I walk into aren't like that.  They aren't diverse places.  They are monocultures where everyone is dressed the same, talking the same and watching the same shows on Netflix.  

When that happens, when our churches lack diversity, we stop reflecting the movement of Jesus because it is a movement that calls ALL people. We are not called to be clone makers but disciple makers.  That means that we find people where they are, welcome them as they are, and help them figure out what following Jesus means right there.  

This isn't easy because diverse groups are messy, but that diversity brings power and beauty that cannot be matched by a sea of sameness. So, I think it's time to challenge our churches to step up to the plate of diversity.  

I think that starts with each of us, individually, committing to leaving our echo chambers to develop relationships with people who are different. It starts by changing our perspective to see those who are different as beautiful compliments rather than faceless enemies.

Because if the church of Jesus Christ is going to be the light of the world, it is going to need all of us working together.  It's going to need all of us connecting with those around us and pointing them to a loving savior who calls ALL people to himself.  Not just the people we like.  Not just the people who look like us. Not just the people who agree with us, but ALL people.  

Now, let us pray that God would begin this change by changing us.  May God give us the courage to become as diverse as the list in Matthew. 

[1] Like foot notes.  Footnotes are also one of my favorite things.  In fact , I realy think I might go and write an Ode to footnotes in a minute.