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Beauty In Diversity

July 7, 2011

Have you ever noticed how most of the people sitting with you in the pews each Sunday look an awful lot like you?  I can’t…and won’t…speak for all the congregations out there.  And, I am not ready to condemn the body of believers that I worship with each week either.  But…it’s an honest question…and it can be an uncomfortable question.  One of the things I really love about our times in New York City is the diversity.  I love how the moment you touch down at LaGuardia, there is no such thing as a minority…everyone is a minority.

 Take a minute and read through Acts 13:1-12.

 The church in Antioch had a multicultural feel to it.  Just look at the plurality of leadership that is listed there in verse 1.  You have Barnabas (a Jewish priest from Cyprus…not Jerusalem), Simeon (a dark skinned man…most likely African), Lucius (a Latin name…most likely raised in Roman culture), Manaen (most likely a Hellenistic Jew), and Saul (a Pharisee who converted from ferocious opponent to faithful believer in Christ).  This is a diverse crowd…and this is just the body of leaders.  This is instrumental in the execution of the great commission…which is every bit for you and I as it was for the Church fathers.  It’s not complicated.  This is how we will best engage the cultures around us…by being multi-cultural.  This is how we begin to understand culture…by being exposed to different cultures.  More importantly…this is how we understand humanity…by looking at the creative, diverse, and beautiful image-bearers of our Almighty God and understanding that it was He who looked at His creation and said, “It was very good.”  Eventually, we are going to have to understand that our “isms” of race, gender, class, and age are not only unbiblical…they’re violently anti-Gospel.

 Verse 4 begins an unusual story about a run-in that Barnabas and Saul have with a magician named Elymas who called himself Bar-Jesus.  There is something I want to point out in verse 7.  Many of us, if we’re honest, believe that nobody around us wants to hear the Gospel.  We genuinely think, or have simply convinced ourselves that if someone wanted to know about Jesus, they would have already found out about Him.  The problem with that way of thinking is found here in verse 7.  It says, “Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.”  Do you see that?  It’s important.  This man, a man who is described as “a man of intelligence”, is seeking to hear the word of God.  He wants to know the good news.  You have to understand that there are people around you right now…seriously…stop reading and think about those around you…who want to hear the Gospel.  They’ve dropped hints.  They’ve called when things are down.  They’ve maybe even asked about church.  Seriously, there are seekers…you might even be a seeker yourself.  That’s okay…this next part is for you.

 Despite the ravings of a mad man…a counterfeit prophet…a charlatan trying to manipulate the name of Jesus…the Gospel continues.  Just as we saw in 12:24, “The word of God increased and multiplied.”  Because here’s the thing…there’s an answer to that seeking.  There’s a fulfillment of that search.  Paul is going to write to the Ephesians, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  There’s the answer.  (I know you were thinking, “But I don’t know what to say…how do I respond?”)  You respond that just like Sergius Paulus, you saw…and you believe…and you bid those around you come and do the same…even if they don’t look like you.

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